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Full text of "An essay of dramatic poesy. Edited with notes by Thomas Arnold. 3d ed., rev. by William T. Arnold"

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IT is interesting to note that the same cause the 
great plague of 1665 which drove Milton from London 
to the Buckinghamshire village of Chalfont St. Giles, 
and there gave him leisure to complete the Paradise 
Lost, obliged Dryden also the theatres being closed 
to pass eighteen months in the country, 'probably at 
Charlton in Wiltshire,' says Malone, where he turned 
his leisure to so good an account as, besides writing 
the * Annus Mirabilis/ to compose in the following Essay 
the first piece of good modern English prose on which 
our literature can pride itself. 

Charles II, having been much in Paris during his exile, 
had been captivated by the French drama, then in the 
powerful hands of Corneille and Moliere. In that drama, 
when prose was not employed, the use of rhyme was an 
essential feature. 

Dryden and others were not slow to consult the taste 
prevailing at Court. His first play, The Wild Gallant, 
was in prose ; it is coarse and not much enlivened by 
wit, and it was not well received. In his next efforts 
Dryden took greater pains. He seems to have convinced 
himself that the attraction of rhyme was necessary to 
please the fastidious audiences for which he had to write; 


and after The Rival Ladies, of which a small part 
is in rhyme, and The Indian Queen (1664), a play 
entirely rhymed, in which he assisted his brother-in-law 
Sir Robert Howard, he brought out, early in 1665, 
his tragedy of The Indian Emperor, which, like The 
Indian Queen, is carefully rhymed throughout. In the 
enforced leisure which his residence at Charlton during 
the plague brought him, he thought over the whole sub 
ject, and this Essay of Dramatic Poesy was the result. 

In the course of time Dryden modified more or less 
the judgment in favour of rhyme which he had given in 
the Essay. In the prologue to the tragedy of Aurung- 
zebe, or the Great Mogul (\6*i^, he says that he finds it 
more difficult to please himself than his audience, and is 
inclined to damn his own play : 

Not that it's worse than what before he writ, 
But he has now another taste of wit ; 
And, to confess a truth, though out of time, 
Grows weary of his long-loved mistress, Rhyme. 

Passion, he proceeds, is too fierce to be bound in fetters; 
and the sense of Shakespeare's unapproachable superiority, 
Shakespeare, whose masterpieces dispense with rhyme, 
inclines him to quit the stage altogether. Nevertheless 
his original contention, however under the pressure of 
dejection, and the sense perhaps of flagging powers, he 
may afterwards have been willing to abandon it, cannot 
be lightly set aside as either weak or unimportant; a 
point on which I shall have something to say presently. 
Five critical questions are handled in the Essay, viz. 
i. The relative merits of ancient and modern poets. 


2. Whether the existing French school of drama is 
superior or inferior to the English. 

3. Whether the Elizabethan dramatists were in all 
points superior to those of Dry den's own time. 

4. Whether plays arc more perfect in proportion as 
they conform to the dramatic rules laid down by the 

5. Whether the substitution of rhyme for blank verse 
in serious plays is an improvement. 

The first point is considered in the remarks ofj Crites 
(Sir Robert Howard), with which the discussion opens. In 
connexion with it the speaker deals with the fourth point, 
assuming without proof that regard to the unities of Time 
andJPlace, inasmuch as it tends to heighten tjip illusion 
of reality, must placejthe authors who pay it above those 
wEo~negkct it. \EugeniusJ(Lord Buckhurst) answers 
him, pointing out the narrow range of the Greek drama, 
and several defects which its greatest admirers cannot 
deny. Crites makes a brief reply, and then^Lisideius j 
(Sir Charles Sedley) plunges into the second question, 
and ardently maintains that the French theatre, which 
was formerly inferior to ours, now, since it had been 
ennobled by the rise of Corneille and his fellow-workers, 
surpasses it and the rest of Europe. This commenda 
tion he grounds partly on their exact observance of the 
dramatic rules, partly on their exclusion of undue com 
plication from their plots and general regard to the 
' decorum of the stage,' partly also on the beauty of their 
rhyme. [Neanderjpryden) takes up the Defence of the 
English stage, and tries to 'show that it is superior to the 


French at every point. * For the verse .itself,' he says, 
' we have English precedents of older date than any of 
Corneille's plays.' By ' verse ' he means, rhyme/' He 
is not rash enough to quote Gammer Gurtorfs Needle 
and similar plays, with their hobbling twelve-syllable 
couplets, as ' precedents ' earlier than the graceful French 
Alexandrines, but he urges that Shakespeare in his early 
plays has long rhyming passages, and that Jonson is not 
without them. At this point Eugenius breaks in with 
the question, Whether Ben Jonson ought not to rank 
before all other writers, both French and English. Before 
undertaking to decide this point,\ Neander says that he will 
attempt to estimate the dramatic genius of Shakespeare, 
and of Beaumont and Fletcher. This he does, in an 
interesting and well-known passage (p. 67). He then 
examines the genius of Jonson with reference to many 
special points, and gives an analysis of the plot of his 
comedy, Epicoene, or the Silent Woman ; but he gives no 
direct answer to the question put by Eugenius. To the 
English stage as a whole he will not allow a position of 
inferiority ; for * our nation can never want in any age 
such who are able to dispute the empire of wit with any 
people in the universe' (p. 77). 

Crites now introduces the subject of rhyme, which he 

maintains to be unsuitable for serious plays. His argu 
ment, and Neander's answer, take up the rest of the Essay. 
The personages who conduct the discussion are all of 
a social rank higher than that to which Dryden belonged. 
Sir Robert Howard, the son of the Earl of Berkshire, 
assumed the poet's lyre or the critic's stylus with an air 


of superiority which showed that he thought it a con 
descension in himself, a man of fashion, to associate with 
the poverty-stricken tribe of authors". This tone is very 
noticeable in the Preface to The Duke of Lerma, which 
Dryden answered in his Defence of the Essay. Sir Charles 
Sedley n was a well-known Kentish baronet, and Lord 
Buckhurst, soon to be the Earl of Dorset, was heir to the 
illustrious house, of Sackville. It is unlikely however that 
Dryden called himself ' Neander ' n in the sense of ' novus 
homo,' a man of the people, desiring to rise above his 
station. Dryden was too proud of his own good birth 
for that, and the term appears to be a rough anagram on 
his own name, just as Lisideius was on that of Sedley. 

This question as to the value of rhyme in dramatic 
poetry is by no means an obsolete or unprofitable 
inquiry ; it still exercises our minds in the nineteenth 
century ; it has received no permanent, no authoritative 
solution. It is usually assumed that Dryden was alto 
gether wrong in preferring the heroic couplet to blank 
verse as the metre of serious dramas ; and his own sub 
sequent abandonment of rhyme foreshadowed, as we 
have seen, in the prologue to Aurung-zebe is regarded 
as an admission that his argument in favour of it was un 
sound. And yet much of what he says in defence of 
rhyme appears to be plain common sense and incontro 
vertible, and to deserve, whatever his later practice may 
have been, a careful consideration. After all, if the 
heroic rhyming plays of Dryden and Lee have found 
no successors, has not blank verse also notoriously 
failed, however able the hands which wielded it, to be- 


come the vehicle and instrument of an English dramatic 
school, worthy to be ranked alongside of the great 
Elizabethans ? Since Dryden's, almost the only supremely 
excellent plays which English literature has produced 
are Sheridan's; and these are comedies, and in prose. 
Coleridge, Young, Addison, Byron, Shelley, Lytton- 
Bulwer, all attempted tragedy in blank verse ; and none 
of their tragedies can be said to live. The fact is, that 
the amazing superiority of Shakespeare, lying much more 
in the matter than in the form of his tragedies, makes us 
ready to admit at once that blank verse is the proper 
metre for an English tragedy because he used it. We do 
not see that the ensemble of the facts of the case, viz. 
that no Elizabethan blank verse tragedy, besides those of 
Shakespeare, can be endured on the stage now, and that 
those of later dramatists have not been successful, might 
lead us to the conclusion that Shakespeare triumphed 
rather in spite of blank verse than because of\i. 

Rhyme is merely one of the devices to which the 
poetic artist has recourse, for the purpose of making his 
work attractive and successful. Whether we take style, 
or metre, or quantity, or rhyme, the source of the pleasure 
seems to be always the same, it lies in the victory of 
that which is formed over the formless, of the orderly 
over the anarchic, in the substitution of Cosmos for 
Chaos, in the felt contrast between the flat and bald 
converse of common life, and the measured and coloured . 
speech of the orator or poet. Style belongs to prose ; 
metre, quantity, and rhyme to poetry. Metre is the 
arrangement of the words and syllables of a composi- 


tion into equal or equivalent lengths, the regularand 
expected recurrence of which is the source of a peculiar 
pleasure. .Quantity is an improvement which can only 
have sprung up among those whose ears had long been 
trained in the strict observance of metre. By Quantity 
is meant the volume, or time, or weight of a "syllable. 
A 'false quantity' consists in giving to a syllable a 
sound larger, longer, and heavier, or on the other hand 
smaller, shorter, and lighter, than that which the ear 
expects. It is obvious that constant study and observa 
tion would tend to determine the quantity of all syllables 
which it was possible to use in poetry; and not their 
natural "quantity only, i. e. the weight which they had 
when standing alone, but also the quantity given them 
by their position before other syllables. This work of 
quantifying as it may be called after being carried to 
great perfection among the Greeks, was by them imparted 
to the Romans. Then it was that, ' horridus ille Defluxit 
numerus Saturnius/ the rough stumbling measure of 
Naevius and earlier poets went into disuse, and metre 
perfected by quantity, in the various moulds, hexameter, 
"elegiac, alcaic, &c., which Greek invention had created, 
took its place. 

/ Crites rightly extols the metre and quantity of the 
ancients; his mistake is in inferring, because the 
ancients did not use rhyme, that therefore it should" 
be eschewed by the moderns. Neander, or Dryden, 
states correctly enough that when- Roman society was 
broken up, and the Latin tongue, unibn the invasions 
of the Barbarians, had become corrupted into several \i/ 


vernacular dialects, whence gradually emerged the new 
/ languages of southern Europe, the niceties of quantity 
were obscured or forgotten, and some new attraction was 
felt to be necessary by the poetic artist in order to supply 
its place. This attraction was found in rhyme. 

Attraction may however be studied too exclusively; 
there may be too much ornament as well as too little. 
Poetry, by presenting ideas in a beautiful dress, aims at 
making them loved. But the ideas themselves are the 
main consideration, and if the dress is too much ob 
truded, if it attract attention for its own sake and not 
for the sake of what it clothes, a fault is committed, and 
a failure incurred. As Aristotle considered (Poet. IV) 
that the elaborate Greek metres were unsuited for tra 
gedy, and that the iambic trimeter, as 'nearer to com 
mon discourse,' was its proper instrument, so it is quite 
possible that in modern dramatic verse rhyme may fix 
the attention too much upon the manner si saying a 
thing, when the thing itself ought to concentrate upon it 
the thoughts and feelings of the spectators. But this 
extreme, owing to the difficulty and toil which finding 
rhymes imposes on the author, is less often met than its 
opposite. For one rhyming play which errs by excess 
of ornament, there are ten plays in blank verse which 
err by being flat and dull. Shakespeare in his best plays 
observes the true mean, making his blank verse so 
rhythmic and beautiful that the hearer requires no 
other ornament; while by rejecting rhyme he avoids 
the danger of weakening that interest which should be 
excited by the plot and the characters. When such 

PREFACE. xiii 

blank verse as the following can be had, no one will 
ever ask for rhyme : 

Forbear to sleep the night, and fast the day, 
Compare dead happiness with living woe; 
Think that thy babes were fairer than they were, 
And him that slew them fouler than he is ; 
Bettering thy loss makes the bad causer worse ; 
Revolving this will teach thee how to curse. 

But when long passages are given us such as 

There is no vice so simple but assumes 
Some mark of virtue on his outward parts : 
How many cowards, whose hearts are all as false 
As stairs of sand, wear yet upop their chins 
The beards of Hercules and frowning Mars, 
Who, inward search'd, have livers white as milk; 
And these assume but valour's excrement 
To render them redoubted, &c., &c. 

then, since the thoughts are neither supremely interesting 
in themselves, nor presented with supreme force or skill 
the hearer is apt to grow weary, and to ask from the 
form of the verse that entertainment which he does not 
derive from the substance. In other words, he would, con 
sciously or not, be glad of rhyme if he could get it. 

There seems good reason to think that the French 
masterpieces of the seventeenth century would not, if 
they were not rhymed, hold their ground on the modern 
stage. With us, Shakespeare's genius enables us, even 
without the aid of rhyme, still to enjoy the acting of his 
plays ; but this is true of no other dramatist of that age 1 . 
In* his work on the Elizabethan dramatists, Charles Lamb 
produced passages from some of the best plays of all the 

1 Massinger's New Way to pay Old Debts is perhaps the only 
exception to the statement in the text, , 


principal authors ; but it must be owned that they make 
no great impression. For this there are indeed other 
causes; the wit is not such as amuses at the present 
day; the passion is rather Italian or Spanish than 
English; but it is also true that the story is seldom 
sufficiently interesting, or the thoughts sufficiently strik 
ing, to enchain our attention for their own sakes, apart 
from the pleasure given by rhyme. On the other hand, 
in reading such a collection as Mr. Palgrave's Golden 
Treasury, all of us are conscious of the continued 
presence of pleasurable feeling. What reason can be 
found for this difference of impression, except that 
rhyme, and often exquisitely managed rhyme, is 
present throughout Mr. Palgrave's collection, and absent 
throughout Lamb's collection ? If the English serious 
drama, expressed in blank verse, had continued to make 
progress from the beginning of the seventeenth century, 
and were in a flourishing condition at the present time, 
Dryden's plea for rhyme, since it might seem to have 
been disproved by the event, might well be rejected. 
But the English serious drama 1 at this moment is in 
such a low condition as to be almost non-existent. It 
seems therefore to be a question open to argument 
whether, in spite of the success, due to exceptional 
power, of Hamlet or King Lear, Dryden was not right 
in holding that the average dramatist could not safely 
dispense, if he wished permanently ' to please English 
audiences, with the music and the charm of rhyme. 

1 Of course I am not speaking of chamber pieces, but of plays in 
tended for the stage. [Signs of revival are happily now visible 1901.] 



The Defence of the Essay of Dramatic Poesy appeared 

later in the same year, 1668. After the publication of 
the Essay, Sir Robert Howard printed his tragedy of 
The Duke of Lerma, in the preface to which (printed by 
Malone in his collected edition of Dryden's prose works) 
he attacked with blundering vehemence the poet's argu 
ment on behalf of rhyme. Dryden seems to have been 
much nettled, and in this sharp and masterly reply he 
exposes the blunders, and makes short work of the argu 
ments, of his brother-in-law. This Defence was prefixed 
to the second edition, just at that time called for, of The 
Indian Emperor. But Dryden must have been unwilling 
for 'many reasons to let this passage of arms ripen into 
a formal quarrel. From later editions of The Indian 
Emperor he suppressed the preface, and forbore ever to 
publish it in a separate form. It was not again printed 
till after his death. 

Three editions of the Essay of Drtfmatic Poesy were 
published in the author's lifetime; see page i. Since 
1700 it has been four times reprinted; first by Robert 
Urie in his Select Essays on the Belles Lettres, Glasgow, 
1750; secondly, by Malone in his edition of Dryden's 
prose works (1800); thirdly, by Sir Walter Scott in his 
general edition of all Dryden's works, published in 
1808 *; and lastly, by Prof. W. P. Ker in his Essays of 
John Dryden (2 vols., 1900). 

1 Now republished under the superintendence of Mr. Saintsbury. 


As the question is interesting and important, I subjoin 
to my father's views a catena of modern opinions on the 


W. T. A. 

Rhyme has been so long banished from the theatre, that we know 
not its effects upon the passions of an audience; but it has this 
convenience, that sentences stand more independent on each other 
and striking passages are therefore easily selected and retained. 
Thus the description of Night in the Indian Emperor, and the rise 
and fall of empire in the Conquest of Granada, are more frequently 
repeated than any lines in All for Love or Don Sebastian. 

JOHNSON, Life of Dryden. 

The whole question of the use of rhyme in English drama has 
been persistently misunderstood, and its history misstated. . . . The 
fashion of rhyme in the drama, then, to be exact x flourished from 
1664 until Lee and Dryden returned to blank verse in 1678. Upon 
this it suddenly languished, and after being occasionally revived 
until the end of the century, found its last example in Sedley's 
Beauty of the Conqueror, published in 1702. . . . During the first 
years of the Restoration, the principal playwrights were Porter, 
a sort of third-rate Brome ; Killegrew, an imitator of Shirley ; 
Stapylton, an apparently lunatic person ; and Sir William Lower. . . . 
Whenever these poetasters ventured into verse, they displayed such 
an incompetence as has never before or since disgraced any coterie 
of considerable writers. Their blank verse was simply inorganic, 
their serious dialogue a sort of insanity, their comedy a string of 
pot-house buffooneries and preposterous * humours.' Dryden, in his 
Wild Gallant, and a very clever dramatist, Wilson, who never 
fulfilled his extraordinary promise, tried, in 1663, to revive the 
moribund body of comedy, but always in the style of Ben Jonson, 


and finally, in 1664, came the introduction of rhymed dramatic 
verse. For my own part, I frankly confess that I think it was the 
only course that it was possible to take. The blank iambics of 
the romantic dramatists had become so execrably weak and dis 
tended, the whole movement of dramatic verse had grown so flaccid, 
that a little restraint in the severe limits of rhyme was absolutely 

E. GOSSE, Seventeenth Century Studies, p. 236. 

The intonation of English is not, like the intonation of French, 
such that rhyme is an absolute necessity to distinguish verse from 
prose ; and where this necessity does not exist, rhyme must always 
appear to an intelligent critic a more or less impertinent intrusion in 
dramatic poetry. Indeed, the main thing which had for a time 
converted Dryden and others to the use of the couplet in drama 
was a curious notion that blank verse was too easy for long and 
dignified compositions. It was thought by others that the secret of 
it had been lost, and that the choice was practically between bad 
blank verse and good rhyme. In All for Love, Dryden very shortly 
showed ambulando that this notion was wholly groundless. From 
this time forward he was faithful to the model he had now adopted, 
and which was of the greatest importance he induced others to 
be faithful too. Had it not been for this, it is almost certain that 
Venice Preserved would have been in rhyme', that is to say that it 
would have been spoilt. 

GEORGE SAINTSBURY, Dryden (English Men of Letters), p. 57. 

Le roi, qui avait vu notre tragedie fran9aise dans tout son eclat 
avec Corneille, avait rapporte en Angleterre la passion des idees 
fran9aises, et une grande difnculte a comprendre le theatre different 
de ce qu'il Tavait vu pendant ses annees d'exil. ' Je viens,' ecrivait 
le comte d'Orrery a un ami, ' de terminer une piece dans le gout 
fran9ais, parce que j'ai entendu le roi declarer qu'il aimait mieux 
leur maniere que la notre.' Ce qui 1'avait surtout frappe dans notre 
tragedie, c'etaient les choses exterieures, comme I'unit6 de lieu, la 
dignite constante des personnages, et la rime. Le monarque, comme 
il est naturel, fit vite des adeptes, et son gout prevalut sans conteste, 
au grand prejudice du theatre anglais. De 1' unite* de lieu il ne fut 



question que pour la forme, car elle ne pouvait guere s'accorder 
avec la nouvelle mise-en-scene ; mais on adopta la rime qtii, si elle 
est necessaire au rythme de nos vers fran9ais, fait des vers anglais 
un chant lyrique insupportable dans un oeuvre de longue haleine, et 
qui est si manifestement contraire au genie dramatique de nos 
voisins, qu'elle n'avait jamais auparavant etc employee sur leur 
theatre et ne le fut jamais apres. 

BELJAME, Le Public et les Hommes de lettres en Angleterre au 
XVIII Siecle, p. 40. 

On peut porter un jngement analogue sur la versification lyrique 
de la 'comedia nueva.' C'est la une forme limitation qui nous 
parait aujourd'hui fort Strange. Ce n'est pas que nous ayons la 
superstition de 1'alexandrin. Mais il nous parait invraisemblable 
qu'un monologue tragique accepte les contraintes d'un sonnet, et 
nous nous demandons si ce sont des heros de drame ou d'ope"ra 
qui e'changent ainsi des dialogues de redondilles. . Prenons garde 
pourtant de n'etre pas dupes d'une impression trop personnelle. 
Nous admettons sans peine que des personnages peints d'apres nature 
s'expriment en vers. Cette extraordinaire convention en peut entralner 
d'autres. Quand nous sommes familiarises avec le lyrisme de Lope, 
nous trouvons de la grace dans les effusions en metres divers du 
' galan ' et de sa ' dama,' et nous ne nous plaignons pas que parfois 
des chants populaires retardent la marche de 1'action. Si nous 
etions Espagnoles, peut-etre penserions-nous comme 1'auteur de 
VArte Nuevo qu'il faut des dizains pour exprimer des plaintes, 
que la romance ou les octaves conviennent seuls aux recits et que 
les amours demandent des quatrains, comme les graves reflexions 
des tercets. La variete des combinaisons rythmiques nous ap- 
paraitrait comme une musique tour a tour passionnee et caressante, 
assez souple pour se renouveler avec les situations et les personnages. 
Mais nous ne sommes pas Espagnoles, et nous sommes assez des- 
agreablement surpris par des strophes lyriques, au moment meme 
ou 1'^motion allait etre franchement tragique. Cette versification 
est peut-etre utile a la comedia, mais elle est trop speciale pour 
ne pas lui faire tort en pays Stranger. 

MARTINENCHE, La Comedia Espagnole en France, p. 120. 


The dispute about rhyming plays was decided as time went on, 
when Dryden came to discover that what had really attracted him in 
rhyme was something different from its suitability for dramatic 
purposes. The Defence contains one of his rather sad confessions 
of the uncongenial nature of some of the dramatic work he had 
to do. Comedy is not for him: 'I want that gaiety of humour 
which is required to it; my conversation is slow and dull, my 
humour saturnine and reserved.' For the other kind, for heroic 
drama in rhyme, he seemed to find more affinity in his genius. It is 
easy to see now, after Absalom and Achitophel, that it was the rhyme 
itself to which he felt himself drawn, rather than the heroic play. 

W. P. KER, Essays of John Dryden, vol. i, Introduction, p. 1. 

The heroic play can be duly studied in the four independent 
works of Dryden : The Indian Emperor, Tyrannic Love, or the 
Royal Martyr, The Conquest of Granada (published 1676), and 
Aureng-zebe (1676) ; in the State of Innocence, his version of Milton's 
version of the Fall ; in the close of Otway's Don Carlos ; and in the 
handling of the tale of Antony by Sir Charles Sedley (Beauty the 
Conqueror, 1677). . . . The polite public was prepared by its 
favourite reading to salute the heroic play. The grandiosity of 
Corneille's drama went for something, and the success of the 
Alexandrine may have helped to bribe the English poets into using 
the couplet. . . . The couplet was, after all, a certain controlling 
force : it encouraged point. The blank verse that by degrees pre 
vailed in our drama failed in control, and was prone to be ex 
travagant, or weak, or both. 

O. ELTON, Augtistan Ages, pp. 243-5. 

In form French tragedy suggested the substitution of rime for 
blank- verse to Lord Orrery, 'the matchless Orinda,' and others, 
above all to Dryden, whose master-hand alone could have ensured 
even temporary success to so hopeless an experiment. For a time, 
with the support of the personal taste of King Charles II, the 
innovation maintained itself; when Dryden announced his intention 
to abandon it, the practice was doomed, and even before this we find 


it treated with undisguised ridicule by a leading comic dramatist 1 . 
There is no necessity in this place to refer to the arguments urged 
for and against it, which will be briefly noticed below. It proved 
impossible permanently to domesticate in English tragedy a form 
differing from that which had become proper to it, which it had 
adopted as its own, and the attempt to introduce rimed couplets 
into English comedy was even more transitory. But in truth these 
couplets, in the hands of Dryden and his followers, are something 
very different from the Alexandrines of Corneille, Racine, and 
Moliere. The latter merely dignify and refine the style of polite 
conversation and courtly speech; the former not only modify ex 
pression, but may without exaggeration be said to change the tone 
of thought. It would not be easy to find any satisfactory reason for 
this difference in the nature of 'heroic' verse itself; for it was, of 
course, not antecedently necessary that this English metre should 
stereotype itself into the form elaborated in succession by Waller, 
Dryden, and Pope. But a poetic form, like a poetic species, cannot 
do violence to its history ; and the English heroic couplet, when it 
came to be used by Dryden for the drama, had already grown 
radically unsuitable for such an application. 

A. W. WARD, History of Dramatic Literature, iii, pp. 316, 317. 

. . . Dryden's defence of rime as an appropriate and desirable part 
of English tragic form has been definitively rejected in theory as well 
as abandoned in practice. As a matter of fact, already in Dryden's 
day rimed couplets had for English ears acquired a different sound 
from that which they possessed and possess for French, partly 
beeause of the peculiar uses to which the practice of our dramatists 
(with variations indeed, but with a general steady tendency in the 
same direction) come to restrict them, partly from their constant 
employment in branches of poetry in which their effect was adverse 
to the semblance of continuity which is indispensable in dramatic 
dialogue. In the ears of English audiences, however much a passing 
fashion might endeavour to conceal the fact, they could not but 
constitute an impediment, instead of an aid, to dramatic illusion. 

1 Wycherley, The Plain Dealer, Act ii, Sc. i (1674). 


The use of rime was therefore at variance with that definition of 
a play which Lisideius, with the approval of his interlocutors, gives 
in the Essay, and which requires it to be ' a just and lively image of *" 
human nature.' Ibid., p. 357. 

When he (Milton) began to write blank verse, the blank verse of 
the dramatists, his contemporaries, was fast degenerating into more 
or less rhythmical prose. Suckling and Davenant and their fellows 
not only used the titmost licence of redundant syllables at the 
end of the line, but hustled and slurred the syllables in the middle 
till the line was a mere gabble, and interspersed broken lines so 
plentifully that it became impossible even for the most attentive 
ear to follow the metre. . . . The history of blank verse reflects 
with curious exactness the phases of the history of the diama. 
When the metre was first set on the stage, in the Senecan drama, 
it was stiff and slow-moving ; each line was monotonously accented, 
and divided from the next by so heavy a stress that the absence of 
rhyme seemed a wilful injury done to the ear. Such as it was, it 
suited the solemn moral platitudes that it was called upon to utter. 
Peele, Marlowe, and Shakespeare made the drama lyrical in theme 
and treatment ; the measure, adapting itself to the change, became 
lyrical in their hands. As the drama grew in scope and power, 
addressing itself to a greater diversity of matter, and coming to 
closer grips with the realities of life, the lyrical strain was lost, and 
blank verse was stretched and loosened and made elastic. During 
the twenty years of Shakespeare's dramatic activity, from being 
lyrical it tended more and more to become conversational in Comedy, 
and in Tragedy to depend for its effects rather on the rhetorical 
rise and fall of the period than on the unit of the line. From the 
drama of Charles the First's time, when inferior workmen had 
carried these licences to the verge of confusion, it is a perfectly 
natural transition to the heroic couplet for Tragedy and the well- 
bred prose of Etherege for Comedy. Blank verse had lost its 
character; it had to be made vertebrate to support the modish 
extravagances of the heroic plays ; and this was done by the addition 
of rhyme. Comedy, on the other hand, was tending already, long 
before the civil .troubles, to social satire, and the life-like repre- 


sentation of contemporary characters and manners, so that prose was 
its only effective instrument. 

WALTER RALEIGH, Milton, p. 190. 

To the above conspectus of modern views on the general 
subject should be added Mr. Swinburne's Study of Shakespeare, 
pp. 32-48. The whole of the passage should be read, but 
the following only can here be quoted : 

Shakespeare was naturally addicted to rhyme, though, if we put 
aside the Sonnets, we must admit that in rhyme he never did any 
thing worth Marlow's Hero and Leander: he did not, like Marlow, 
see at once that it must be reserved for less active forms of poetry 
than the tragic drama. . . . But in his very first plays, comic or 
tragic or historic, we can see the collision and conflict of the two 
influences ; his evil angel, rhyme, yielding step by step and note by 
note to the strong advance of that better genius who came to lead 
him into the loftier path of Marlow. There is not a single passage 
in Titus Andronicus more Shakespearean than the magnificent 
quatrain of Tamora upon the eagle and the little birds ; but the rest 
of the scene in which we come upon it, and the whole scene 
preceding, are in blank verse of more variety and vigour than we 
find in the baser parts of the play ; and these, if any scenes, we may 
surely attribute to Shakespeare. ... In this play then (First Part 
of Henry VI], more decisively than in Titus Andronicus, we find 
Shakespeare at work (so to speak) with both hands with his left 
hand at rhyme and his right hand at blank verse. The left is loth 
to forego the practice of its peculiar music ; yet, as the action of the 
right grows freer and its touch grows stronger, it becomes more and 
more certain that the other must cease playing, under pain of pro 
ducing mere discord and disturbance in the scheme of tragic 
harmony. . . . The example afforded by the Comedy of Errors would 
suffice to show that rhyme, however inadequate for tragic use, is by 
v no means a bad instrument for romantic comedy. . . . What was 
highest as poetry in the Comedy of Errors was mainly in rhyme ; 
all indeed, we might say, between the prelude spoken by ^Egeon 


and the appearance, in the last scene, of his wife : in Love's Labour's 
Lost, what was highest was couched wholly in blank verse ; in the 
Two Gentlemen of Verona, rhyme has fallen seemingly into abeyance 

It is perhaps not so certain as is generally assumed that 
the rhyming play is dead beyond recall. It is probably 
not wholly without significance that the two most popular 
(though debased) of English stage-forms the pantomime 
and the burlesque are both in rhyme. A man of genius 
may yet show what can be done with rhyme, and he is most 
likely to show it in the field suggested by Mr. Swinburne. 
When, in the prologue to the last of his rhyming tragedies 
(Aureng-zebe) , Dryden confessed to weariness of rhyme, his 
reason was that ' Passion's too fierce to be in fetters bound,' 
and he was clearly thinking of tragedy. But in certain kinds 
of romantic comedy, the artificiality of effect produced by 
those fetters might conceivably be only a grace the more. 



MY father was actually engaged upon the revision of 
this book at the time of his death (November, 1900), 
and his working-copy contains a number of * n's ' in the 
margin, over against the passages on which he intended 
to write new notes. Some, at all events, of those notes 
were actually written, but they have unfortunately not 
been found. In these circumstances I have done my 
best to carry out his intentions so far as I could divine 
them. My task has been a good deal facilitated by the 
appearance of Prof. W. P. Ker's scholarly edition of the 
Essays of John Dryden (2 vols., Clarendon Press, 1900), 
and I have also to acknowledge obligations to Dr. A. W. 
Ward, whose History of English Dramatic Literature 
has been constantly at my elbow, and who has moreover 
rendered to his late friend and kinsman the service of piety 
involved in his allowing me to consult him upon special 
points. Perhaps the most prominent feature of my 
revision is the copiousness of quotation from Corneille. 
In no other way did it seem possible to bring home 
to the reader the greatness of Dryden's debt extending 
not only to ideas and arguments, but even phrases to 
his French contemporary. It should be added that the 
New English Dictionary, which is now far advanced, 
and which, it is already evident, will considerably lighten 
the labours of future amaotators on English classics, has 
been freely drawn upon. The longer of my own notes 
are printed in square brackets. 


May, 1901. 







As I was lately reviewing my loose papers, 
amongst the rest I found this Essay, the writing of 
which, in this rude and indigested manner wherein 
your lordship now sees it, served as an amusement 5 
to me in the country, when the violence of the last 
plague * had driven me from the town. Seeing then 
our theatres shut up, I was engaged in these kind 
of thoughts with the same delight with which men 
think upon their absent mistresses. I confess I find 10 
many things in this Discourse which I do not now 
approve; my judgment being not a little altered 4 

1 A = edition of 1668. B = edition of 1684 (here, in the main, 
reprinted). C = edition of 1693. 

a C has, 'Charles Earl of Dorset and Middlesex, Lord Chamberlain 
of their Majesties Houshold, Knight of the Most Noble Order of 
the Garter, &c.* Lord Buckhurst had become Earl of Dorset in 1677. 
It is hard to say why Dryden did not give him his proper title in the 
edition of 1684. 

8 The great plague of 1665 (Malone), ^ * a Httle altered, A. 


since the writing of it ; but whether l for the better 
or the worse, I know not : neither indeed is it much 
material, in an essay, where all I have said is pro 
blematical. For the way of writing plays in verse, 
5 which I have seemed to favour, I have, since that time, 
laid the practice of it aside, till I have more leisure, 
because I find it troublesome and slow. But I am 
no way altered from my opinion of it, at least with 
any reasons which have opposed it. For your lord- 

10 ship may easily observe, that none are very violent 
against it, but those who either have not attempted 
it, or who have succeeded ill in their attempt. It 
is enough for me to have your lordship's example 
for my excuse in that little which I have done in it ; 

15 and I am sure my adversaries can bring no such 
arguments against verse, as those with which n the 
fourth act of Pompey* will furnish me 2 in its defence. 
Yet, my lord, you must suffer me a little to complain 
of you, that you too soon withdraw from us a con- 

20 tentment, of which we expected the continuance, 
because you gave it us so early. It is a revolt, 
without occasion, from your party, where your merits 
had already raised you to the highest commands, and 
where you have not the excuse of other men, that 

25 you have been ill used, and therefore laid down 
arms 3 . I know no other quarrel you can have to 
verse, than that * which Spurina n had to his beauty, 
when he tore and mangled the features of his face, 
only 5 because they pleased too well the sight 6 . It 

1 whither, A. 

a as the fourth Act of Pompey will furnish me with, A. 

* Armes, A. * then that, A* 5 onely, A. the lookers on. A, 


was an honour which seemed to wait for you, to lead 
out a new colony of writers from the mother nation : 
and upon the first spreading of your ensigns, there 
had been many in a readiness to have followed so 
fortunate a leader ; if not all, yet the better part of 5 
poets l : 

pars, indocili melior grege ; mollis et cxspcs* 

Inominata perprimat cubilia. n 

I am almost of opinion, that we should force you to 
accept of the command, as sometimes the Praetorian TO 
bands have compelled their captains to receive the 
empire. The court, which is the best and surest 
judge of writing n , has generally allowed n of verse ; 
and in the town it has found favourers of wit and 
quality. As for your own particular, my lord, you *5 
have yet youth and time enough to give part of 
them 3 to the divertisement of the public, before you 
enter into the serious and more unpleasant business 
of the world. That which the French poet said of 
the temple of Love, may be as well applied to the 20 
temple of the Muses. The words, as near as I can 
remember them, were these : 

Le jeune homme a mauvaise grace, 

N* ay ant pas ador& dans le Temple d' Amour ; 

II faut qtfil entre ; et pour le sage, 75 

Si ce tiest pas son vrai* sejour, 

Cest un gite* sur son passage.* 

I leave the words to work their effect upon your 
lordship in their own language, because no other can 
so well express the nobleness of the thought ; and 3 
wish you may be soon called to bear a part in the 

1 Writers, A. expts, A. 3 of it, A. 

Si ce nest son vray, A. ' Ce'st wn giste, A, 

B 2 


affairs of the nation, where I know the world expects 
you, and wonders why you have been so long for 
gotten; there being no person amongst our young 
nobility, on whom the eyes of all men are so much 
5 bent. But in the mean time, your lordship may 
imitate the course of Nature, who gives us the flower 
before the fruit : that I may speak to you in the 
language of the muses, which I have taken from an 
excellent poem to the king : 

to As Nature, when she fruit designs 1 , thinks fit 

By beauteous blossoms to proceed to it ; 
And while she does accomplish all the spring, 
Birds to her secret operations sing. 

I confess I have no greater reason, in addressing 

15 this Essay to your lordship, than that it might 
awaken in you the desire of writing something, in 
whatever kind it be, which might be an honour to 
our age and country. And methinks it might have 
the same effect on you, which Homer tells us the 

20 fight of the Greeks and Trojans before the fleet, had 
on the spirit of Achilles ; who, though he had re 
solved not to engage 2 , yet found a martial warmth 
to steal upon him at the sight of blows, the sound of 
trumpets, and the cries of fighting men. 

*5 For my own part, if, in treating of this subject, 
I sometimes dissent from the opinion of better wits, I 
declare it is not so much to combat their opinions, as 
to defend my own, which were first made publick. n 
Sometimes, like a scholar in a fencing-school, I put 

30 forth myself, and shew my own ill play, on purpose to 
be better taught. Sometimes I stand desperately to 

1 desigucs, A. 9 ingage, A. 


my arms, like the foot when deserted by their horse ; 
not in hope to overcome, but only to yield on more 
honourable terms. And yet, my lord, this war of 
opinions, you well know, has fallen out among the 
writers of all ages, and sometimes betwixt friends. 5 
Only it has been prosecuted by some, like pedants, 
with violence of words, and managed by others like 
gentlemen, with candour and civility. Even Tully 
had a controversy with his dear Atticus ; and in one 
of his Dialogues, makes him sustain the part of an 10 
enemy in philosophy, who, in his letters, is his con 
fident n of state, and made privy to the most weighty 
affairs of the Roman senate. And the same respect 
which was paid by Tully to Atticus, we find returned 
to him afterwards by Caesar on a like occasion, who J5 
answering his book in praise of Cato, made it not so 
much his business to condemn Cato, as to praise 
Cicero. n 

But that I may decline some part of the encounter 
with my adversaries, whom I am neither willing to ao 
combat, nor well able to resist; I will give your 
lordship the relation of a dispute betwixt some of our 
wits on the same subject 1 , in which they did not only 
speak of plays in verse, but mingled, in the freedom 
of discourse, some things of the ancient, many of the 25 
modern, ways of writing ; comparing those with these, 
and the wits of our nation with those of others : it is 
true 2 , they differed in their opinions, as it is probable 3 
they would : neither do I take upon me to reconcile, 
but to relate them; and that as Tacitus professes of 30 

1 upon this subject, A. * 'tis true, A. 

3 'tis probable, A. 


himself, sine studio partium, out ir&\ without passion 
or interest ; leaving your lordship to decide it in 
favour of which part you shall judge most reasonable, 
and withal, to pardon the many errors of 

Your Lordship's 

Most obedient humble servant, 


1 Tac. Ann. 1. 1 ; sine ira aut studio, quorum causas procul habeo 


THE drift of the ensuing discourse was chiefly to 
vindicate the honour of our English writers, from the 
censure of those who unjustly prefer the French before 
them. This I intimate, lest any should think me so 
exceeding vain, n as to teach others an art which they 
understand much better than myself. But if this incor 
rect Essay, written in the country without the help of 
books or advice of friends, shall find any acceptance 
in the world, I promise to myself a better success of 
the Second Part, wherein I shall more fully treat of 1 
the virtues and faults of the English poets, who have 
written either in this, the epick 2 , or the lyrick 3 way 4 . 

1 A oni. I shall more fully treat of. * Epique, A. 

8 Lyrique, A. 

* A has, ' will be more fully treated of, and their several stylei 
impartially imitated.' 




IT was that memorable day 2 , in the first summer of 
5 the late war, when our navy engaged 3 the Dutch ; a 
day wherein the two most mighty and best appointed 
fleets which any age had ever seen, disputed the com 
mand of the greater half of the globe, the commerce 
of nations, and the riches of the universe: while 4 
10 these vast floating bodies, on either side, moved 
against each other in parallel lines, and our country 
men, under the happy conduct of his royal high 
ness 5 , went breaking, by little and little, into the 
line of the enemies; the noise of the cannon 
15 from both navies reached our ears about the city, n 
so that all men being alarmed with it, and in a dread 
ful suspense of the event, which they knew 6 was then 
deciding, every one went following the sound as his 
fancy led him ; and leaving the town almost empty, 

1 Dramatick Poesie, A. a June 3, 1665 (Malone). 

8 ingag'd, A. * Universe. While, A. 

6 James, duke of York, afterwards James II (Malone). - 
6 we knew, A. 


some took towards the park, some cross the river, 
others down it ; all seeking the noise in the depth of 

Among the rest, it was the fortune of Eugenius, 
Crites, Lisideius, and Neander, to be in company 5 
together ; three of them persons whom their wit and 
quality have made known to all the town ; and whom 
I have chose to hide under these borrowed names, 
that they may not suffer by so ill a relation as I am 
going to make of their discourse. 10 

2. Taking then a barge, which a servant of Lisideius 
had provided for them, they made haste to shoot the 
bridge, and left behind them that great fall of waters 
which hindered them from hearing what they desired : 
after which, having disengaged 1 themselves from many 15 
vessels which rode at anchor in the Thames, and al 
most blocked 2 up the passage towards Greenwich, they 
ordered the watermen to let fall their oars more gently; 
and then, every one favouring his own curiosity with a 
strict silence, it was not long ere they perceived the air 20 
to break 3 about them like the noise of distant thunder, 
or of swallows in a cmmney : those little undulations 
of sound, though almost vanishing before they reached 
them, yet still seeming to retain somewhat of their 
first horrour, which they had betwixt the fleets. 25 
After 4 they had attentively listened till such time as 
the sound by little and little went from them, Eugenius, 
lifting up his head, and taking notice of it, was the 
first who congratulated to n the rest that happy omen 
of our nation's victory : adding, that 5 we had but 30 

1 disingag'd, A. " blockt, A. The Air to break, A. 

* Fleets : after. 6 A om. 


this to desire in confirmation of it, that we might 
hear no more of that noise, which was now leaving 
the English coast. When the rest had concurred in 
the same opinion, Crites, a person of a sharp judg- 
5 ment, and somewhat too delicate a taste in wit, which 
the world have mistaken in him for ill-nature, said, 
smiling to us, that if the concernment of this battle 1 
had not been so exceeding great, he could scarce 
have wished the victory at the price he knew he 

10 must pay for it, in being subject to the reading and 
hearing of so many ill verses as he was sure would 
be made on that subject. Adding 2 , that no argument 
could scape some of those eternal rhymers, who 
watch a battle with more diligence than l;he ravens 

15 and birds of prey ; and the worst of them surest to 
be first in upon the quarry: while the better able, 
either out of modesty writ not at all, or set that due 
value upon their poems, as to let them be often 
desired 3 and long expected. 'There 4 are some of 

30 those impertinent people of whom you speak V an 
swered Lisideius, 'who to my knowledge are already 
so provided, either way, that they can produce not 
only a panegyrick upon the victory, but, if need be, a 
funeral elegy on the duke ; wherein, after 6 they have 

35 crowned his valour with many laurels, they will 7 at 
last deplore the odds under which he fell, concluding 
that his coiyage deserved a better destiny.' All the 
company smiled at the conceipt of Lisideius ; but 
Crites, more eager than before, began to make par- 

1 battel, A. 2 upon it ; adding, A. 8 call'd for. 

4 expected ! there, A. 5 people you speak of, A. 

6 and after, A. T A om. they will. 


ticular exceptions against some writers, and said, the 
publick magistrate ought to send betimes to forbid 
them ; and that it concerned the peace and quiet of 
all honest people, that ill poets should be as well 
silenced as seditious preachers. 11 'In my opinion/ 5 
replied Eugenius, 'you pursue your point too far; 
for as to my own particular, I am so great a lover 
of poesy, that I could wish them all rewarded, 
who attempt but to do well; at least, I would not 
have them worse used than one of their brethren 10 
was by Sylla the Dictator 1 : Quern in condone vidi 
mus (says Tully,) cum ei libellum malus poeta depopulo 
subjecisset, quod epigramma in eum fecisset tantum- 
modo alternis versibus longtuscutis, statim ex Us rebus 
quas tune* vendebat jubere ei praemium tribui, sub 15 
ea conditione ne quid postea scriberet? n ' I could wish 
with all my heart,' replied Crites, 'that many whom 
we know were as bountifully thanked upon the same 
condition, that they would never trouble us again. 
For amongst others, I have a mortal apprehension 20 
of two poets n , whom this victory, with the help 
of both her wings, will never be able to escape.' 
4 'Tis easy 3 to guess whom you intend,' said Lisi- 
deius ; ' and without naming them, I ask you, if 
one of them does not perpetually pay us with 25 
clenches upon words, and a certain clownish kind 
of raillery ? if now and then he does not offer at a 
catachresis 4 n or Clevelandism 5n , wresting and tor- 

1 then [than] Sylla the Dictator did one of their brethren here 
tofore, A. 

8 quae tune, A. ' escape ; 'tis easie, A. 

4 Catecresis, A. * so A ; Cleivelanclism B, and edd. 


turing a word into another meaning : in fine, if he 
be not one of those whom the French would call 
un mauvais buffon ; one who is so much a well-wilier 
to the satire, that he intends at least to spare 1 no 

5 man ; and though he cannot strike a blow to hurt 
any, yet he ought 2 to be punished for the malice 
of the action, as our witches are justly hanged, 
because they think themselves to be such 3 ; and 
suffer deservedly for believing they did mischief, 

ro because they meant it.' 'You have described him,' 
said Crites, ' so exactly, that I am afraid to come 
after you with my other extremity of poetry. He is 
one of those who, having had some advantage of 
education and converse, knows better than the other 

15 what a poet should be, but puts it into practice more 
unluckily than any man; his style and matter are 
every where alike : he is the most calm, peaceable 
writer you ever read: he never disquiets your pas 
sions with the least concernment, but still leaves you 

ao in as even a temper as he found you ; he is a very 
leveller in poetry: he creeps along with ten little 
words in every line 4 , and helps out his numbers with 
For to, and Unto, and all the pretty expletives he can 
find, till he drags them to the end of another line ; 

35 while the sense is left tired half way behind it : he 
doubly starves all his verses, first for want of thought, 

1 he spares, A. * yet ought, A. 

1 think themselves so, A. 

* This passage evidently furnished Pope with his well-known 
couplet in the ESSAY ON CRITICISM ; 

* While expletives their feeble aid do join, 
And ten low words oft creep in one dull line.* 



and then of expression ; his poetry neither has wit in 
it, nor seems to have it; like him in Martial : n 

Pauper videri Cinna vult t et est pauper. 

1 He affects plainness, to cover his want of imagina 
tion : when he writes the serious way, the highest & 
flight of his fancy is some miserable antithesis, or 
seeming contradiction; and in the comic he is still 
reaching at some thin conceit, the ghost of a jest, and 
that too flies before him, never to be caught ; these 
swallows which we see before us on the Thames are 10 
the just resemblance of his wit: you may observe 
how near the water they stoop, how many proffers 
they make to dip, and yet how seldom they touch it ; 
and when they do, it is but the surface : they skim 
over it but to catch a gnat, and then mount into the 15 
air and leave it.' 

3. 'Well, gentlemen/ said Eugenius, 'you may 
speak your pleasure of these authors ; but though I 
and some few more about the town may give you a 
peaceable hearing, yet assure yourselves, there are *o 
multitudes who would think you malicious and them 
injured : especially him whom you first described ; 
he is the very Withers 11 of the city: they have 
bought more editions of his works than would serve 
to lay under all their pies at the lord mayor's 25 
Christmas. When his famous poem first came out 
in the year 1660, I have seen them reading it in 
the midst of 'Change time ; nay so vehement they 
were at it, that they lost their bargain by the candles' 
ends n ; but what will you say, if he has been re- 30 
ceived amongst great persons 1 ? I can assure you 

1 the great Ones,. A. 


he is, this day, the envy of one * who is lord in the 
art of quibbling ; and who does not take it well, that 
any man should intrude so far into his province.' 
'All I would wish/ replied Crites, 'is, that they who 
5 love his writings, may still admire him, and his 
fellow poet: Qui Bavium non odit n , $c., is curse 
sufficient.' 'And farther/ added Lisideius, ' I believe 
there is no man who writes well, but would think he 
had hard measure 2 , if their admirers should praise 

10 anything of his : Nam quos contemnimus, eorum quo- 
que laudes contemnimus' 'There are so few who 
write well in this age/ says Crites, 'that methinks any 
praises should be welcome ; they neither rise to the 
dignity of the last age, nor to any of the ancients : 

15 and we may cry out of the writers of this tune, with 
more reason than Petronius of his, Pace vestrd liceat 
dixisse, primi omnium eloquentiam perdidistis: n you 
have debauched the true old poetry so far, that 
Nature, which is the soul of it, is not in any of your 

ao writings.' 

4. 'If your quarrel/ said Eugenius, 'to those who 
now write, be grounded only on your reverence to 
antiquity, there is no man more ready to adore those 
great Greeks and Romans than I am: but on the 

25 other side, I cannot think so contemptibly of the age 
in which I live 3 , or so dishonourably of my own 
country, as not to judge we equal the arifcients in 
most kinds of poesy, and in some surpass them ; 
neither know I any reason why I may not be as 

1 of a great person, A. 

8 think himself very hardly dealt with, A, 

' the Age I live in, A. 


zealous for the reputation of our age, as we find the 
ancients themselves were in reference to those who 
lived before them. For you hear your Horace 

Indignor quidquam reprehendi, non quia crassf 

Compositum, ilhpidtvc putetur, sed quia nufer.* 

And after : 

Si meliora dies, ut vina, potmata reddit, 

Scirt velim, pretium chartis quotus arroget annus?* 

' But I see I am engaging in a wide dispute, where id 
the arguments are not like to reach close on either 
side ; for poesy is of so large an extent, and so many 
both of tli? ancients and moderns have done well in 
all kinds of it, that in citing one against the other, 
we shall take up more time this evening than each 15 
man's occasions * will allow him : therefore I would 
ask Crites to what part of poesy he would confine 
his arguments, and whether he would defend the 
general cause of the ancients against the moderns, 
or oppose any age of the moderns against this of 20 
ours ? y 

5. Crites, a little while considering upon this de 
mand, told Eugenius, that if 2 he pleased, he would 
limit their dispute to Dramatique Poesie 3 ; in which 
he thought it not difficult to prove, either that the 25 
ancients were superior to the moderns, or the last 
age to this of ours. 

Eugenius was somewhat surprised, when he heard 
Crites make choice of that subject. ' For ought I 

1 so C ; mans occasions, A, B. 

3 that he approved his Proposals, and if, A, 

so A and B ; Dramatick Poesie, C, 

see, 1 said he, 'I have undertaken a harder province 
than I imagined ; for though I never judged the 
plays of the Greek or Roman poets comparable to 
ours, yet, on the other side, those we now see acted 

5 come short of many which were written in the last 
age : but my comfort is, if we are overcome, it will 
be only by our own countrymen : and if we yield to 
them in this one part of poesy, we more surpass 
them in all the other : for in the epic or lyric way, it 

10 will be hard for them to shew us one such amongst 
them, as we have many now living, or who lately 
were l : they can produce nothing so courtly writ, or 
which expresses so much the conversation of a 
gentleman, as Sir John Suckling; nothing so even, 

15 sweet, and flowing, as Mr. Waller; nothing so majestic, 
so correct, as Sir John Denham ; nothing so elevated, 
so copious, and full of spirit, as Mr. Cowley; as 
for the Italian, French, and Spanish plays, I can 
make it evident, that those who now write surpass 

ao them ; and that the drama is wholly ours/ n 

All of them were thus far of Eugenius his n opinion, 
that the sweetness of English verse was never under 
stood or practised by our fathers ; even Crites him 
self did not much oppose it : and every one was 

35 willing to acknowledge how much our poesy is im 
proved by the happiness of some writers yet living ; 
who first; taught us to mould our thoughts into easy 
and significant words, to retrench the superfluities 
of expression, and to make our rime 2 so properly a 

30 part of the verse, that it should never mislead the 
sense, but itself be led and governed by it. 

1 were so, A. a so A and B ; rhyme, C. 


6. Eugenius was going to continue this discourse, 
when Lisideius told him that 1 it was necessary, be 
fore they proceeded further, to take a standing mea 
sure of their controversy ; for how was it possible to 
be decided who writ the best plays, before we know 5 
what a play should be ? But, this once agreed on 
by both parties, each might have recourse to it, either 
to prove his own advantages, or to discover the 
failings of his adversary. 

He had no sooner said this, but all desired the 10 
favour of him to give the definition of a play ; and 
they were the more importunate, because neither 
Aristotle, nor Horace, nor any other, who had writ 2 
of that subject, had ever done it. 

Lisideius, after some modest denials, at last con- 15 
fessed he had a rude notion of it ; indeed, rather a 
description than a definition; but which served to 
guide him in his private thoughts, when he was to 
make a judgment of what others writ : that he con 
ceived a play ought to be, A just and lively image of 
human nature, representing its passions and humours, 
and the changes of fortune to which it is subject, for the 
delight and instruction of mankind. 

This definition, though Crites raised a logical ob-, 
jection against it that it was only a genere et fine t \ 25 
and so not altogether perfect n , was yet well received 
by the rest : and after they had given order to the 
watermen to turn their barge, and row softly, that 
they might take the cool of the evening in their re 
turn, Crites, being desired by the company to begin, 30 
spoke on behalf of the ancients, in this manner : 

1 A om. 8 who writ, A. 



' If confidence presage a victory, Eugenius, in his 
own opinion, has already triumphed over the an 
cients : nothing seems more easy to him, than to 
overcome those whom it is our greatest praise to 
5 have imitated well ; for we do not only build upon 
their foundations 1 , but by their models. Dramatic 
Poesy had time enough, reckoning from Thespis 
(who first invented it) to Aristophanes, to be born, 
to grow up, and to flourish in maturity. It has been 

10 observed of arts and sciences, that in one and the 
same century they have arrived to great 2 perfection ; n 
and no wonder, since every age has a kind of uni 
versal genius, which inclines those that live in it 
to some particular studies : the work then, being 

15 pushed on by many hands, must of necessity go 

'Is it not evident, in these last hundred years, 
when the study of philosophy 11 has been the business 
of all the Virtuosi 11 in Christendom, that almost a 

ao new nature has been revealed to us ? That more 
errors of the School n have been detected, more useful 
experiments in philosophy have been made, more 
noble secrets in optics, medicine, anatomy, astro- 

Inomy, discovered, than in all those credulous and 
doting ages from Aristotle to us ? so true it is, that 
nothing spreads more fast than science, when rightly 
and generally cultivated. 

' Add to this, the more than common emulation 

that was in those times of writing well ; which 

30 though it be found in all ages and all persons that 

pretend to the same reputation, yet poesy, being 

1 foundation, A. 2 a great, A. 


then in more esteem than now it is, had greater 
honours decreed to the professors of it, and conse 
quently the rivalship was more high between them ; 
they had judges ordained to decide their merit, and 
prizes to reward it ; and historians have been dili- 5 
gent to record of Eschylus, Euripides, Sophocles, 
Lycophron, and the rest of them, both who they 
were that vanquished in these wars of the theatre, 
and how often they were crowned : while the Asian 
kings and Grecian commonwealths scarce afforded 10 
them a nobler subject than the unmanly luxuries of 
a debauched court, or giddy intrigues of a factious 
city: Alit cemulatio mgem'a, (says Paterculus,) et 
nunc invidia, nunc admiratio incitationem accendit:^ 
Emulation is the spur of wit ; and sometimes envy, 15 
sometimes admiration, quickens our endeavours. 

' But now, since the rewards of honour are taken 
away, that virtuous emulation is turned into direct 
malice ; yet so slothful, that it contents itself to con 
demn and cry down others, without attempting to do 20 
better : it is * a reputation too unprofitable, to take 
the necessary pains for it ; yet, wishing they had it, 
that desire 2 is incitement enough to hinder others 
from it. And this, in short, Eugenius, is the reason 
why you have now so few good poets, and so many 25 
severe judges. Certainly, to imitate the ancients 
well, much labour and long study is required ; which 
pains, I have already shewn, our poets would want 
encouragement to take, if yet they had ability to go 
through the work 3 . Those ancients have been faithful 3 
imitators and wise observers of that nature which is 

1 'tis, A. a A om. that desire. s through with it, A. 

C 2 


so torn and ill represented in our plays ; they have 
handed down to us a perfect resemblance of her ; 
which we, like ill copiers, neglecting to look on, have 
rendered monstrous, and disfigured. But, that you 

5 may know how much you are indebted to those your 
masters, and be ashamed to have so ill requited 
them, I must remember you n , that jtll the rules by 
which we practise the drama at this day, (either such 
as relate to the justness and symmetry of the plot, or 

10 the episodical ornaments, such as descriptions, nar 
rations, and other beauties, which are not essential 
to the play 1 ,) were delivered to us from the observa 
tions which Aristotle made, of those poets, who 
either lived before him, or were his contemporaries : 

15 we have added nothing of our own, except we have 
the confidence to say our wit is better ; of which, 
none boast in this our age, but such as understand 
not theirs. Of that book which Aristotle lias left us, 
n(p\ TTJS Hoirj-iKTjs, Horace his Art of Poetry is an ex- 

20 cellent comment, and, I believe, restores to us that 
Second Book of his concerning Comedy, which is 
wanting in him. n 

' Out of these two have 2 been extracted the famous 
Rules, which the French call Des Trots Unites, or, 

35 The Three Unities n , which ought to be observed in 
every regular play; namely, of Time, Place, and 

' The unity of time they comprehend in twenty-four 
hours, the compass of a natural day, or as near as it 

30 can be contrived ; and the reason of it is obvious to 
every one, that the time of the feigned action, or 

1 no brackets in A. 2 has, A. 


fable of the play, should be proportioned as near as 
can be to the duration of that time in which it is 
represented : since therefore, all plays are acted on the 
theatre in the space of time much within the compass 
of twenty-four hours, that play is to be thought the 5 
nearest imitation of nature, whose plot or action is 
confined within that time ; and, by the same rule 
which concludes this general proportion of time, it 
follows, that all the parts of it are (as near as may 
be 1 ) to be equally subdivided; namely-, that one act 10 
take not up the supposed time of half a day, which is 
out of proportion to the rest ; since the other four are 
then to be straitened within the compass of the re 
maining half: for it is unnatural that one act, which 
being spoke or written is not longer than the rest, 15 
should be supposed longer by the audience ; it is 
therefore the poet's duty, to take care that no act 
should be imagined to exceed the time in which it is 
represented on the stage ; and that the intervals and 
inequalities of time be supposed to fall out between 20 
the acts. 

' This rule of time, how well it has been observed 
by the ancients, most of their plays will witness ; you 
see them in their tragedies, (wherein to follow this 
rule, is certainly most difficult,) from the very be- 25 
ginning of their plays, falling close into that part of 
the story which they intend for the action or principal 
object of it, leaving the former part to be delivered by 
narration : so that they set the audience, as it were, at 
the post where the race is to be concluded ; and, saving 30 
them the tedious expectation of seeing the poet set out 

1 A om. as near as may be. 8 as namely, A. 


and ride the beginning of the course, they suffer you 
not to behold him 1 , till he is in sight of the goal, and 
just upon you. 

' For the second unity, which is that of Place, the 
5 ancients meant by it, that the scene ought to be con 
tinued through the play, in the same place where it 
was laid in the beginning : for, the stage on which it 
is represented being but one and the same place, it is 
unnatural to conceive it many, and those far distant 

10 from one another. I will not deny but, by the vari 
ation of painted scenes, the fancy, which in these 
cases will contribute to its own deceit, may sometimes 
imagine it several places, with some appearance of 
probability ; yet it still carries the greater likelihood 

15 of truth, if those places be supposed so near each 
other, as in the same town or city; which may all be 
comprehended under the larger denomination of one 
place ; for a greater distance will bear no proportion 
to the shortness of time which is allotted, in the 

ao acting, to pass from one of them to another ; for the 
observation of this, next to the ancients, the French 
are to be most commended. They tie themselves so 
strictly to the unity of place, that you never see in 
any of their plays, a scene changed in the middle of 

35 an act : if the act begins in a garden, a street, or 
chamber, 'tis ended in the same place ; and that you 
may know it to be the same, the stage is so supplied 
with persons, that it is never empty all the time : he 
who enters second 2 , has business with him who was 

30 on before ; and before the second quits the stage, 
a third appears who has business with him. This 

1 you behold him not, A. a that enters the second, A. 


Corneille ' calls la liaison des scenes n , the continuity or 
joining of the scenes ; and 'tis a good mark of a well- 
contrived play, when all the persons are known to 
each other, and every one of them has some affairs 
with all the rest. 5 

' As for the third unity, which is that of Action, the 
ancients meant no other by it than what the logicians 
do by their finis, the end or scope of any action ; that 
which is the first in intention, and last in execution : 
now the poet is to aim at one great and complete 10 
action, to the carrying on of which all things in his 
play, even the very obstacles, are to be subservient ; 
and the reason of this is as evident as any of the 
former. For two actions, equally laboured and driven 
on by the writer, would destroy the unity of the poem; 15 
it would be no longer one play, but two : not but that 
there may be many actions in a play, as Ben Johnson 
has observed in his Discoveries* ; but they must be 
all subservient to the great one, which our language 
happily expresses in the name of under-plois : such as 20 
in Terence's Eunuch is the difference and reconcile 
ment of Thais and Phaedria, which is not the chief 
business of the play, but promotes the marriage of 
Chaerea and Chremes's sister, principally intended 
by the poet. There ought to be but one action, says 25 
Corneille n , that is, one complete action, which leaves 
the mind of the audience in a full repose ; but this 
cannot be brought to pass but by many other im 
perfect actions, which conduce to it, and hold the 
audience in a delightful suspence of what will be. 30 

' If by these rules (to omit many other drawn from 

1 Cornell, A 


the precepts and practice of the ancients) we should 
judge our modern plays, 'tis probable that few of them 
would endure the trial: that which should be the 
business of a day, takes up in some of them an age ; 

5 instead of one action, they are the epitomes of a man's 
life ; and for one spot of ground, which the stage 
should represent, we are sometimes in more countries 
than the map can shew us. 

' But if we allow the Ancients to have contrived 

10 well, we must acknowledge them to have written l 
better. Questionless we are deprived of a great stock 
of wit in the loss of Menander among the Greek 
poets, and of Caecilius, Afranius, and Varius, among 
the Romans ; we may guess at Menander's excellency 

15 by the plays of Terence, who translated some of his 2 ; 
and yet wanted so much of him, that he Was called by 
C. Caesar the half-Menander u ; and may judge 3 of 
Varius", by the testimonies of Horace, Martial, and 
Velleius Paterculus. 'Tis probable that these, could 

ao they be recovered, would decide the controversy ; but 
so long as Aristophanes and Plautus 4 are extant, 
while the tragedies of Euripides, Sophocles, and 
Seneca, are in our hands 5 , I can never see one of 
those plays which are now written, but it increases 

35 my admiration of the ancients. And yet I must 
acknowledge further, that to admire them as we ought, 
we should understand them better than we do. Doubt 
less many things appear flat to us, the wit of which 6 
depended on some custom or story, which never came 

1 writ, A. 2 so A ; B has 'them.' * A om. may judge. 

4 Aristophanes in the old Comedy and Plautus in the new, A. 

5 are to be had, A. * whose wit, A. 


to our knowledge; or perhaps on some criticism in 
their language, which being so long dead, and only 
remaining in their books, 'tis not possible they should 
make us understand * perfectly. To read Macrobius," 
explaining the propriety and elegancy of many words 5 
in Virgil, which I had before passed over without 
consideration as common things, is enough to assure 
me that I ought to think the same of Terence ; and 
that in the purity of his style (which Tully so much 
valued that he ever carried his works about him) there 10 
is yet left in him great room for admiration, if I knew 
but where to place it. In the mean time I must desire 
you to take notice, that the greatest man of the last 
age, Ben Johnson, was willing to give place to them in 
all things: he was not only a professed imitator of 15 
Horace, but a learned plagiary of all the others; you 
track him every where in their snow : if Horace, Lucan, 
Petronius Arbiter, Seneca, and Juvenal, had their 
own from him, there are few serious thoughts which 
are new in him : you will pardon me, therefore, if I 20 
presume he loved their fashion, when he wore their 
cloaths. But since I have otherwise a great venera 
tion for him, and you, Eugenius, prefer him above all 
other poets,* I will use no farther argument to you 
than his example : I will produce before you Father 25 
Ben 2 , dressed in all the ornaments and colours of the 
ancients ; you will need no other guide to our party, 
if you follow him ; and whether you consider the bad 

1 know it, A. a Father Ben to you, A. 

* See a high eulogy on Ben Jonson, by Lord Buckhurst (the 
Eugenius of thi? piece), written about the year 1668. Dryden's 
MISCEL. v. 123, edit. 1716 (MaloneV 


f the 

plays of our age, or regard the good plays 1 of 
last, both the best and worst of the modern poets will 
equally instruct you to admire 2 the ancients/ 

Crites had no sooner left speaking, but Eugenius, 
5 who had 3 waited with some impatience for it, thus 
began : 

' I have observed in your speech, that the former 
part of it is convincing as to what the moderns have 
profited by the rules of the ancients ; but in the latter 

10 you are careful to conceal how much they have ex 
celled them ; we own all the helps we have from them, 
and want neither veneration nor gratitude, while we 
acknowledge that, to overcome them, we must make 
use of the advantages we have received from them : 

15 but to these assistances we have joined our own in 
dustry ; for, had we sat down with a dull imitation of 
them, we might then have lost somewhat of the old 
perfection, but never acquired any that was new. We 
draw not therefore after their lines, but those of nature ; 

20 and having the life before us, besides the experience 
of all they knew, it is no wonder if we hit some airs 
and features which they have missed. I deny not 
what you urge of arts and sciences, that they have 
flourished in some ages more than others ; but your 

25 instance in philosophy makes for me : for if natural 
causes be more known now than in the time of 
Aristotle, because more studied, it follows that poesy 
and other arts may, with the same pains, arrive still 
nearer to perfection ; and, that granted, it will rest 

30 for you to prove that they wrought more perfect 
images of human life than we ; which seeing in 

1 good ones, A. a esteem. A. s A om. had. 


your discourse you have avoided to make good, it 
shall now be my task to show you some part of their 
defects, and some few excellencies of the moderns. 
And I think there is none among us can imagine 
I do it enviously, or with purpose to detract from 5 
them ; for what interest of fame or profit can the 
living lose by the reputation of the dead ? On the 
other side, it is a great truth which Velleius Pater- 
culus affirms n : Audita visis libentius laudamus ; et 
prcesentia tnvidia, prceterita admiratione prosequimur ; 10 
et his nos obrui, Hits instrui credimus : that praise or 
censure is certainly the most sincere, which unbribed 
posterity shall give us. 

' Be pleased then in the first place to take notice, 
that the Greek poesy, which Crites has affirmed to 15 
have arrived to perfection in the reign of the old 
comedy, was so far from it, that the distinction of j^ 
it into acts was not known to them ; or if it were, 
it is yet so darkly delivered to us that we cannot 
make it out. ao 

'All we know of it is, from the singing of their 
Chorus; and that too is so uncertain, that in some 
of their plays we have reason to conjecture they sung 
more than five times. Aristotle indeed divides the in 
tegral parts of a play into four. First, the Protasis n , 25 
or entrance, which gives light only to the characters 
of the persons, and proceeds very little into any part 
of the action. Secondly, the Epitasis, or working up 
of the plot ; where the play grows warmer, the design 
or action of it is drawing on, and you see something 3 
promising that it will come to pass. Thirdly, the 
Catastasis, called by the Romans, Status, the height 


and full growth of the play : we may call it properly 
the counter-turn J n , which destroys that expectation, 
imbroils the action in new difficulties, and leaves you 
far distant from that hope in which it found you ; as 

5 you may have observed in a violent stream resisted 
by a narrow passage, it runs round to an eddy, and 
carries back the waters with more swiftness than it 
brought them on. Lastly, the Catastrophe n , which the 
Grecians called Aiwr, the French le denouement, and 

10 we the discovery, or unravelling of the plot : there 
you see all things settling again upon their first foun 
dations ; and, the obstacles which hindered the design 
or action of the play once removed, it ends with that 
resemblance of truth and nature, that the audience 

15 are satisfied with the conduct of it. Thus this great 
man delivered to us the image of a play ; and I must 
confess it is so lively, that from thence much light has 
been derived to the forming it more perfectly into acts 
and scenes : but what poet first limited to five the 

20 number of the acts, I know not ; only we see it so 
firmly established in the time of Horace, that he gives 
it for a rule in comedy, Neu brevior quinto, neu sit 
productior actu* So that you see the Grecians cannot 
be said to have consummated this art ; writing rather 

5 by entrances, than by acts, and having rather a general 
indigested notion of a play, than knowing how and 
where to bestow the particular graces of it 

' But since the Spaniards at this day allow but three 
acts, which they call Jornadas*, to a play, and the 

3 Italians in many of theirs follow them, when I con 
demn the ancients, I declare it is not altogether 

1 A has, ' Thirdly the Catastasis or Counterturn ' : the rest om. 


because they have not five acts to every play, but 
because they have not confined themselves to one 
certain number: it is building an house without a 
model ; and when they succeeded in such undertakings, 
they ought to have sacrificed to Fortune, not to 5 
the Muses. 

' Next, for the plot, which Aristotle called TO pvBos n, 
and often T&V npay^irotv <rvv6ns f and from him the 
Romans Fabula ; it has already been judiciously ob 
served by a late writer, that in their tragedies it was 10 
only some tale derived from Thebes or Troy, or at 
least something that happened in those two ages; 
which was worn so threadbare by the pens of all the 
epic poets, and even by tradition itself of the talka 
tive Greeklings n , (as Ben Johnson calls them,) that 1 5 
before it came upon the stage, it was already known 1 
to all the audience : and the people, so soon as ever 
they heard the name of Oedipus, knew as well as the 
poet, that he had killed his father by a mistake, and 
committed incest with his mother, before the play ; 
that they were now to hear of a great plague, an 
oracle, and the ghost of Laius : so that they sat with 
a yawning kind of expectation, till he was to come 
with his eyes pulled out, and speak a hundred or 
more * verses in a tragic tone, in complaint of his 35 
misfortunes. But one Oedipus, Hercules, or Medea, 
had been tolerable : poor people, they escaped not so 
good cheap n ; they had still the chapon bouille set 
before them, till their appetites were cloyed with the 
same dish, and, the novelty being gone, the pleasure 30 
vanished ; so that one main end of Dramatic Poesy 

1 hundred or two of, A. 


in its definition, which was to cause delight, was of 
consequence destroyed. 

' In their comedies, the Romans generally borrowed 
their plots from the Greek poets ; and theirs was 
5 commonly a little girl stolen or wandered from her 
parents, brought back unknown to the city 1 , there 
[falling into the hands of] some young fellow, who, 
by the help of his servant, cheats his father; and 
when her time comes, to cry n , Juno Lucina, fer 

10 opem, one or other sees a little box or cabinet which 
was carried away with her, and so discovers her to 
her friends, if some god do not prevent it, by coming 
down in a machine", and taking 2 the thanks of it to 

15 'By the plot you may guess much of the characters 
of the persons. An old father, who would willingly, 
before he dies, see his son well married; his de 
bauched son, kind in his nature to his mistress 3 , but 
miserably in want of money ; a servant or slave, who 

ao has so much wit to strike in with him, and help to 
dupe his father; a braggadocio captain, a parasite, 
and a lady of pleasure. 

' As for the poor honest maid, on whom the story 
is built, and who ought to be one of the principal 

35 actors in the play, she is commonly a mute in it : she 
has the breeding of the old Elizabeth way, which 
was 4 for maids to be seen and not to be heard ; and 
it is enough you know she is willing to be married, 
when the fifth act requires it. 

30 'These are plots built after the Italian mode of 

1 the same city, A. 3 take, A. 

8 so C ; Mistres, B ; Wench, A. * A om. which was. 


houses, you see through them all at once: the 
characters are indeed the imitation of nature, but 
so narrow, as if they had imitated only an eye or an 
hand, and did not dare to venture on the lines of 
a face, or the proportion of a body. 5 

' But in how strait a compass soever they have 
bounded their plots ( and characters, we will pass 
it by, if they have regularly pursued them, and per 
fectly observed those three unities of time, place, and 
action ; the knowledge of which you say is derived 10 
to us from them. But in the first place give me leave 
to tell you, that the unity of place, however it might 
be practised by them, was never any of their rules : 
we neither find it in Aristotle, Horace, or any who 
have written of it, till in our age the French poets 15 
first made it a precept of the stage. The unity of 
time, even Terence himself, who was the best and 
most regular of them, has neglected : his Heauton- 
timorumenos, or Self-Punisher, takes up visibly two 
days, says Scaliger n ; the two first acts concluding 20 
the first day, the three last the day ensuing 1 ; and 
Euripides, in tying himself to one day, has committed 
an absurdity never to be forgiven him; for in one 
of his tragedies 11 he has made Theseus go from 
Athens to Thebes, which was about forty English 35 
miles, under the walls of it to give battle, and appear 
victorious in the next act ; and yet, from the time 
of his departure to the return of the Nuntius, who 
gives the relation of his victory, JEthra. and the 

1 A has, ' therefore, sayes Scaliger, the two first acts concluding 
the first day were acted overnight ; the three last on the ensuing 



Chorus have but thirty-six verses ; which 1 is not 
for every mile a verse. 

' The like error is as evident in Terence his Eunuch, 
when Laches, the old man, enters by mistake into 

5 the house 2 of Thais ; where, betwixt his exit and 
the entrance of Pythias, who comes to give ample 
relation of the disorders 3 he has raised within, Par- 
meno, who was left upon the stage, has not above 
five lines to speak. Cest bien employer 4 un temps si 

10 court, says the French poet ", who furnished me with 
one of the observations : and almost all their tragedies 
will afford us examples of the like nature. 

' It is true 5 , they have kept the continuity, or, as 
you called it, liaison des scenes, somewhat better: 

15 two do not perpetually come in together, talk, and 
go out together; and other two succeed them, and 
do the same throughout the act, which the English 
call by the name of single scenes ; but the reason 
is, because they have seldom above two or three 

ao scenes, properly so called, in every act ; for it is to 
be accounted a new scene, not only every time 6 the 
stage is empty ; but every person who enters, though 
to others, makes it so ; because he introduces a new 
business. Now the plots of their plays being narrow, 

25 and the persons few, one of their acts was written 
in a less compass than one of our well-wrought 
scenes; and yet they are often deficient even in 
this. To go no further than Terence; you find in 
the Eunuch, Antipho entering single in the midst 

1 that, A. a in a mistake the house, A. 

* Garboyles, A. 4 employe", A. 

'Tis true, A. not cTery time, A. 


of the third act, after Chremes and Pythias were 
gone off" ; in the same play you have likewise Dorias 
beginning the fourth act alone; and after she had 
made a relation of what was done at the Soldier's l 
entertainment, (which by the way was very inarti- 5 
ficial, because she was presumed to speak directly 
to the audience, and to acquaint them with what was 
necessary to be known, but yet should have been so 
contrived by the poet as to have been told by persons 
of the drama to one another, and so by them to have 10 
come to the knowledge of the people,) she quits the 
stage, and Phsedria enters next, alone likewise : he 
also gives you an account of himself, and of his 
returning from the country, in monologue ; to which 
unnatural way of narration Terence is subject in 15 
all his plays. In his Adelphi, or Brothers, Syrus 
and Demea enter after the scene was broken by 
the departure of Sostrata, Geta, and Canthara ; and 
indeed you can scarce look into any of his comedies, 
where you will not presently discover the same in- 20 

'But as they have failed both in laying of their 
plots, and in the management 2 , swerving from the 
rules of their own art by misrepresenting nature to 
us, in which they have ill satisfied one intention of 25 
a play, which was delight ; so in the instructive part 
they have erred worse: instead of punishing vice 
and rewarding virtue, they have often shewn a pros 
perous wickedness, and an unhappy piety : they have 
set before us a bloody image of revenge in Medea, 3 
and given her dragons to convey her safe from punish- 

1 Souldiers, A. 2 managing of 'em, A. 



ment; a Priam and Astyanax murdered, and Cas 
sandra ravished, and the lust and murder ending 
in the victory of him who acted them : in short, 
there is no indecorum in any of our modern plays, 

5 which if I would excuse, I could not shadow with 
some authority from the ancients. 

' And one farther note of them let me leave you : 
tragedies and comedies were not writ then as they 
are now, promiscuously, by the same person ; but 

10 he who found his genius bending to the one, never 
attempted the other way. This is so plain, that I 
need not instance to you, that Aristophanes, Plautus, 
Terence, never any of them writ a tragedy; ^Eschylus, 
Euripides", Sophocles, and Seneca, never meddled 

15 with comedy : the sock and buskin were not worn 
by the same poet. Having then so much care to 
excel in one kind, very little is to be pardoned them, 
if they miscarried in it ; and this would lead me to 
the consideration of their wit, had not Crites given 

20 me sufficient warning not to be too bold in my judg 
ment of it ; because, the languages being dead, and 
many of the customs and little accidents on which 
it depended lost to us, we are not competent judges 
of it. But though I grant that here and there we 

25 may miss the application of a proverb or a custom, 
yet a thing well said will be wit in all languages; 
and though it may lose something in the translation, 
yet to him who reads it in the original, 'tis still the 
same: he has an idea of its excellency, though it 

30 cannot pass from his mind into any other expression 
or words than those in which he finds it. When 
Phsedria, in the Eunuch, had a command from his 


mistress to be absent two days, and, encouraging 
himself to go through with it, said, Tandem ego non 
ilia caream, si sit opus 1 , vel totum triduum? Par- 
meno, to mock the softness of his master, lifting up 
his hands and eyes, cries out, as it were in admira- 5 
tion, Hut! universum triduum I n the elegancy of 
which universum, though it cannot be rendered in 
our language, yet leaves an impression on our souls : 
but this happens seldom in him ; in Plautus oftener, 
who is infinitely too bold in his metaphors and coin- 10 
ing words, out of which many times his wit is no 
thing ; which questionless was one reason why Horace 
falls upon him so severely in those verses : 

Sed proavi nostri Plautinos et nwneros et 

Laudavere sales, nimiwn patienter utrwnque, Ig 

JVie dicam stolide n . 

For Horace himself was cautious to obtrude a new 
word on his readers, and makes custom and com 
mon use the best measure of receiving it into our 
writings : 20 

Multa renaseentur qua nunc [jam] cecidere, cadentque 
Qua nunc sunt in honorc vocabula, si volet usus, 
Quern penes arbitrium est, et jus, et norma loquendi n . 

The not observing this rule is that which the 
world has blamed in our satyrist, Cleveland 2 n : to 25 
express a thing hard and unnaturally, is his new 
way of elocution. 'Tis true, no poet but may some 
times use a catachresis n : Virgil does it 

Mistaque ridenti colocasia fundet acantho n 

1 si opus sit, A. * so A ; Cleiveland, 15. 

D 2 


in his eclogue of Pollio ; and in his seventh ^Eneid, 

miranlur et und(Z, 

Miratur nemus insuetum fulgentia longe 
Scuta virum fluvio pictasque innare carinas*. 

5 And Ovid once so modestly, that he asks leave to 
do it: 

quern, si verbo audacia detur, 

Haud metuam summi dixisse Palatia call. 

calling the court of Jupiter by the name of Augustus 
10 his palace ; though in another place he is more bold, 
where he says, et longas visent Capitolia pampas. 
But to do this always, and never be able to write 
a line without it, though it may be admired by some 
few pedants, will not pass upon those who know that 
wit is best conveyed to us in the most easy language ; 
and is most to be admired when a great thought 
comes dressed in words so commonly received, that 
it is understood by the meanest apprehensions, as 
the best meat is the most easily digested : but we 
ao cannot read a verse of Cleveland's without making 
a face at it, as if every word were a pill to 
swallow: he gives us many times a hard nut to 
break our teeth, without a kernel for our pains. So 
that there is this difference betwixt his Satires and 
25 doctor Donne's ; that the one gives us deep thoughts 
in common language, though rough cadence; the 
other gives us common thoughts in abstruse words : 
'tis true, in some places his wit is independent of his 
words, as in that of the Rebel Scot : 

30 Had Cain been Scot, God would have chang'd his doom; 
Not forc'd him wander, but confin'd him home". 


Si sic otnnia dixisset! n This is wit in all languages : 
it is like Mercury, never to be lost or killed : and 
so that other 

For beauty, like white powder, makes no noise, 

And yet the silent hypocrite destroys". 5 

You see, the last line is highly metaphorical, but 
it is so soft and gentle, that it does not shock us as 
we read it. 

' But, to return from whence I have digressed, to 
the consideration of the ancients' writing, and their 10 
wit; (of which by this time you will grant us in 
some measure to be fit judges.) Though I see many 
excellent thoughts in Seneca, yet he of them who 
had a genius most proper for the stage, was Ovid ; 
he had a way of writing so fit to stir up a pleasing 15 \ 
admiration and concernment, which are the objects 
of a tragedy, and to shew the various movements of 
a soul combating betwixt two different passions, that, V 
had he lived in our age, or in his own could have 
writ with our advantages, no man but must have 20 
yielded to him ; and therefore I am confident the 
Medea is none of his : for, though I esteem it for 
the gravity and sententiousness of it, which he him 
self concludes to be suitable to a tragedy, Omne 
genus scripti gravitate tragcedia vincit^, yet it moves 25 
not .my soul enough to judge that he, who in the 
epick way wrote things so near the drama as the 
story of Myrrha, of Caunus and Biblis, and the rest, 
should stir up no more concernment where he most 
endeavoured it n . The master-piece of Seneca I hold 30 
to be that scene in the Troades, where Ulysses is 
seeking for Astyanax to kill him : there you see the 


tenderness of a mother so represented in Andromache 
that it raises compassion to a high degree in the 
reader, and bears the nearest resemblance of any 
thing in the tragedies of the ancients l to the excellent 
5 jscenes of passion in Shakspeare, or in Fletcher : for 

\ love-scenes, you will find few among them ; their 

I tragick poets dealt not with that soft passion, but 
with lust, cruelty, revenge, ambition, and those bloody 

< actions they produced; which were more capable 

10 of raising horrour than compassion in an audience : 
leaving love untouched, whose gentleness would have 
tempered them ; which is the most frequent of all the 
passions, and which, being the private concernment 
of every person, is soothed by viewing its own image 

15 in a publick entertainment. 

' Among their comedies, we find a scene or two of ' 
tenderness, and that where you would least expect it, 
in Plautus ; but to speak generally, their 16vers say 
little, when they see each other, but am'ma mea, vita 

20 mea ; z<*>rj Kal ty\>xn n , as the women in Juvenal's time 

used to cry out in the fury of their kindness 2 . Any 

sudden gust of passion (as an extasy of love in an 

unexpected meeting) cannot better be expressed than 

\in a word and a sigh, breaking one another. Nature 

25\is dumb on such occasions ; and to make her speak, 
'would be to represent her unlike herself. But there 
are a thousand other concernments of lovers, as 

jealousies, complaints, contrivances, and the like, 
where not to open their minds at large to each other, 

3 were to be wanting to their own love, and to the ex- 

1 their tragedies, A. 

2 kindness : then indeed to speak sense were an offence, A. 


pectation of the audience ; who watch the movements 
of their minds, as much as the changes of their for 
tunes. For the imaging of the first is properly the work 
of a poet ; the latter he borrows from l the historian/ 

Eugenius was proceeding in that part of his dis- 5 
course, when Crites interrupted him. 'I see/ said 
he, ' Eugenius and I are never* like to have this 
question decided betwixt us; for he maintains, the 
moderns have acquired a new perfection in, writing; 
I can only grant they have altered the mode of it. 10 
Homer described his heroes men of great appetites, 
lovers of beef broiled upon the coals, and good 
fellows; contrary to the practice of the French 
Romances, whose heroes neither eat, nor drink, nor 
sleep, for love. Virgil makes ^Eneas a bold avower 15 
of his own virtues : 

Sum plus sEneas, fama super (zthera notus n ; 
which, in the civility of our po.ets is the character of 
a fanfaron or Hector : for with us the knight takes 
occasion to walk out, or sleep, to avoid the vanity of 20 
telling his own story, which the trusty 'squire is ever 
to perform for him. So in their love-scenes, of 
which Eugenius spoke last, the ancients were more 
hearty, we more talkative : they writ love as it was 
then the mode to make it; and I will grant thus much 25 
to Eugenius, that perhaps one of their poets, had he 
lived in our age, si foret hoc nostrum fato delapsus in 
cevum n , (as Horace says of Lucilius,) he had altered \ >> 
many things; not that they were not natural 2 before, 
but that he might accommodate himself to the age in 30 
which he lived 3 . Yet in the mean time, we are not to 
1 of, A. a as natural, A. 8 age he liv'd in, A. 


conclude any thing rashly against those great men, 

but preserve to them the dignity of masters, and give 

that honour to their memories, quos Libitina sacravit", 

part of which we expect may be paid to us in future 

5 times/ 

This moderation of Crites, as it was pleasing to all 
the company, so it ft ut an end to that dispute ; which 
Eugenius, who seemed to have the better of the argu 
ment, would urge no farther : but Lisideius, after he 

10 had acknowledged himself of Eugenius his opinion 
concerning the ancients, yet told him, he had for 
borne, till his discourse were ended, to ask him why 
he preferred the English plays above those of other 
nations ? and whether we ought not to submit our 

15 stage to the exactness of our next neighbours ? 

' Though/ said Eugenius, ' I am at all times ready 
to defend the honour of my country against the 
French, and to maintain, we are as well able to van 
quish them with our pens, as our ancestors have been 

20 with their swords ; yet, if you please/ added he, 
looking upon Neander, ' I will commit this cause to 
my friend's management ; his opinion of our plays is 
the same with mine : and besides, there is no reason, 
that Crites and I, who have now left the stage, should 

25 re-enter so suddenly upon it ; which is against the 
laws of comedy/ 

' If the question had been stated/ replied Lisideius, 
'who had writ best, the French or English, forty 
years ago, I should have been of your opinion, and 

30 adjudged the honour to our own nation ; but since 
that time/ (said he, turning towards Neander,) 'we 
have been so long together bad Englishmen, that we 


had not leisure to be good poets. Beaumont, Fletcher, 
and Johnson, (who were only capable of bringing us 
to that degree of perfection which we have,) were just 
then leaving the world ; as if in an age of so much 
horrour, wit, and those milder studies of humanity, 5 
had no farther business among us. But the Muses, 
who ever follow peace, went to plant in another 
country : it was then, that the great Cardinal of 
Richelieu began to take them into his protection ; 
and that, by his encouragement, Corneille 11 , and some 10 
other Frenchmen, reformed their theatre, (which 
before was as much below ours, as it now surpasses 
it and the rest of Europe). But because Crites in his 
discourse for the ancients has prevented me, by ob 
serving 1 many rules of the stage which the moderns 15 
have borrowed from them, I shall only, in short, 
demand of you, whether you are not convinced that 
of all nations the French have best observed them ? 
In the unity of time you find them so scrupulous, 
that it yet remains a dispute among their poets, 20 
whether the artificial day of twelve hours, more or less, 
be not meant by Aristotle 11 , rather than the natural 
one of twenty-four ; and consequently, whether all 
plays ought not to be reduced into that compass. 
This I can testify, that in all their dramas writ within 25 
these last twenty years and upwards, I have not ob 
served any that have extended the time to thirty 
hours : in the unity of place they are full as scrupul 
ous ; for many of their criticks limit it to that very 
spot of ground where the play is supposed to begin ; 30 
none of them exceed the compass of the same town 
1 touching upon, A. 


or city. The unity of action in all plays is yet more 
conspicuous ; for they do not burden them with under 
plots, as the English do : which is the reason why 
many scenes of our tragi-comedies carry on a design 
5 that is nothing of kin to the main plot ; and that we 
see two distinct webs in a play, like those in ill- 
wrought stuffs ; and two actions, that is, two plays, 
carried on together, to the confounding of the 
audience ; who, before 'they are warm in their con- 

10 cernments for one part, are diverted to another ; and 
by that means espouse the interest of neither. From 
hence likewise it arises, that the one half of our actors 
are not known to the other. They keep their dis 
tances, as if they were Mountagues and Capulets, and 
4 15 seldom begin an acquaintance till the last scene of the 
l^ fifth act, when they are all to meet upon the stage. 
There is no theatre in the world has any thing so 

* absurd as the English tragi-comedy ; 'tis a drama of 
our own invention n , and the fashion of it is enough to 

20 proclaim it so ; here a course of mirth, there another 
of sadness and passion, and a third of honour and a 
duel l : thus, in two hours and a half, we run through 
all the fits of Bedlam. The French affords you as 
much variety on the same day, but they do it not so 

25 unseasonably, or ma! a propos, as we : our poets pre 
sent you the play and the farce together ; and our 
stages still retain somewhat of the original civility of 
the Red Bull : 

Atque ursum et pugihs media inter carmina poscunt*. 

30 The end of tragedies or serious plays, says Aristotle, 
is to beget admiration, compassion or concernment 11 ; 

1 a third of Honour, and fourth a Duel, A. 


but are not mirth and compassion things incompatible? 
and is it not evident that the poet must of necessity 
destroy the former by intermingling of the latter? 
that is, he must ruin the sole end and object of his 
tragedy, to introduce somewhat that is forced into it 1 , 5 
and is not of the body of it. Would you not think 
that physician mad, who, having prescribed a purge, 
should immediately order you to take restringents 2 ? 
' But to leave our plays, and return to theirs. I 
have noted one great advantage they have had in the 10 
plotting of their tragedies ; that is, they are always 
grounded upon some known history: according to 
that of Horace, Ex noto fictum carmen sequar n ; and 
in that they have so imitated the ancients, that they 
have surpassed them. For the ancients, as was ob- 15 
served before, took for the foundation of their plays 
some poetical fiction, such as under that consideration 
could move but little concernment in the audience, 
because they already knew the event of it. But the 
French goes farther : 20 

Atque if a mentitur, sic veris falsa remiscet, 
Primo nt medium, media ne discrepet imum v . 

He so interweaves truth with probable fiction, that " 
he puts a pleasing fallacy upon us; mends the in-j 
trigues of fate, and dispenses with the severity ofps 
history, to reward that virtue which has been ren 
dered to us there unfortunate. Sometimes the story * 
has left the success n so doubtful, that the writer is 
free, by the privilege of a poet, to take that which of 
two or more relations will best suit with his design : 30 
as for example, in 8 the death of Cyrus, whom Justin r 
1 forced in, A. 3 restringents upon it, A. 3 A om. 


and some others report to have perished in the Scy 
thian war, but Xenophon affirms to have died in his 
bed of extreme old age n . Nay more, when the event 
is past dispute, even then we are willing to be de- 

5 ceived, and the poet, if he contrives it with appear 
ance of truth, has all the audience of his party ; at 
least during the time his play is acting : so naturally we 
are kind to virtue, when our own interest is not in ques 
tion, that we take it up as the general concernment 

10 of mankind. On the other side, if you consider the 

\ historical plays of Shakspeare, they are rather so 
many chronicles of kings, or the business many times 
of thirty or forty years, cramped into a representation 
of two hours and an half; which is not to imitate or 

15 paint nature, but rather to draw her in miniature, to 
take her in little; to look upon her through the wrong 
end of a perspective, and receive her images not only 
much less, but infinitely more imperfect than the life: 
this, instead of making a play delightful, renders it 

20 ridiculous : 

Quodcunque ostendis mihi sic, incredulus odi ". 

For the spirit of man cannot be satisfied but with 
truth, or at least verisimility ; and a poem is to con 
tain, if not TO. eTvpa, yet eTvpoia-iv 6/xoIa ; as one of the 

25 Greek poets has expressed it n . 

' Another thing in which the French differ from us 
and from the Spaniards, is, that they do not embarrass, 
or cumber themselves with too much plot ; they only 
represent so much of a story as will constitute one 

30 whole and great action sufficient for a play ; we, who 
undertake more, do but multiply adventures ; which, 


not being produced from one another, as effects from 
causes, but barely following, constitute many actions 
in the drama, and consequently make it many plays. 

'But by pursuing closely 1 one argument, which is 
not cloyed with many turns, the French have gained 5 
more liberty for verse, in which they write ; they have 
leisure to dwell on a subject which deserves it ; and 
to represent the passions, (which we have acknow 
ledged to be the poet's work,) without being hurried 
from one thing to another, as we are in the plays ic 
of Calderon, which we have seen lately upon our 
theatres, under the name of Spanish plots n . I have 
taken notice but of one tragedy of ours, whose plot 
has that uniformity and unity of design in it, which 
I have commended in the French ; and that is Rollo n , it 
or rather, under the name of Rollo. the Story of 
Bassianus and Geta in Herodian : there indeed the 
plot is neither large nor intricate, but just enough 
to fill the minds of the audience, not to cloy them. 
Besides, you see it founded upon the truth of history, ao 
only the time of the action is not reduceable to the 
strictness of the rules ; and you see in some places a 
little farce mingled, which is below the dignity of the 
other parts ; and in this all our poets are extremely 
peccant : even Ben Johnson himself, in Sejanus and 25 
Catiline, has given us this oleo 11 of a play, this un 
natural mixture of comedy and tragedy ; which to me 
sounds just as ridiculously as the history of David 
with the merry 'humours of Golia's 2 . In Sejanus you 
may take notice of the scene betwixt Livia and the 3 
physician, which is a pleasant satire upon the artificial 

1 close, A. a Goliah's, C. 


helps of beauty : in Catiline you may see the parlia 
ment of women ; the little envies of them to one 
another; and all that passes betwixt Curio and Fulvia: 
scenes admirable in their kind, but of an ill mingle 

5 with the rest. 

' But I return again to the French writers, who, as 
I have said, do not burden themselves too much with 
plot, which has been reproached to them by an in 
genious person of our nation as a fault ; for, he says, 

10 they commonly make but one person considerable in 
a play; they dwell on him, and his concernments, 
while the rest of the persons are only subservient to 
set him off. If he intends this by it, that there is 
one person in the play who is of greater dignity than 

15 the rest, he must tax, not only theirs, but those of the 
ancients, and which he would be loth to do, the best 
of ours ; for it is impossible but that one person must 
be more conspicuous in it than any other, and conse 
quently the greatest share in the action must devolve 

20 on him. We see it so in the management of all 
affairs; even in the most equal aristocracy, the balance 
cannot be so justly poised, but some one will be 
superiour to the rest, either in parts, fortune, interest, 
or the consideration of some glorious exploit ; which 

25 will reduce the greatest part of business into his 

'But, if he would have us to imagine, that in 
exalting one character the rest of them are neglected, 
and that all of them have not some share or other in 

30 the action of the play, I desire him to produce any of 
Corneille's tragedies, wherein every person, like so 
many servants in a well-governed family, has not some 


employment, and who is not necessary to the carrying 
on of the plot, or at least to your understanding it. 

' There are indeed some protatick n persons in the 
ancients, whom they make use of in their plays, either 
to hear or give the relation : but the French avoid 5 
this with great address, making their narrations only 
to, or by such, who are some way interessed n in the 
main design. And now I am speaking of relations, I 
cannot take a fitter opportunity to add this in favour 
of the French, that they often use them with better 10 
judgment and more a propos than the English do. 
Not that I commend narrations in general, but there 
are two sorts of them. One, of those things which 
are antecedent to the play, and are related to make 
the conduct of it more clear to us. But 'tis a fault to 15 
choose such subjects for the stage as will force us on 
that rock, because we see they are seldom listened to 
by the audience, and that is many times the ruin of 
the play; for, being once let pass without attention, 
the audience can never recover themselves to under- 20 
stand the plot : and indeed it is somewhat unreasonable 
that they should be put to so much trouble, as that, to 
comprehend what passes in their sight, they must 
have recourse to what was done, perhaps, ten or 
twenty years ago n . 25 

' But there is another sort of relations, that is, of 
things happening in the action of the play, and sup 
posed to be done behind the scenes'; and this is many 
times both convenient and beautiful ; for by it the 
French avoid the tumult to which we are subject l 3 
in England, by representing duels, battles, and the 
1 which we are subject to, A. 


like; which renders our stage too like the theatres 
j where they fight prizes". For what is more ridiculous 
[than to represent an army with a drum and five men 
Behind it n ; all which the hero of the other side is 
5 to drive in before him ; or to see a duel fought, and 
one slain with two or three thrusts of the foils, which 
we know are so blunted, that we might give a man an 
hour to kill another in good earnest with them. 
. 'I have observed that in all our tragedies, the 
id audience cannot forbear laughing when the actors are 
[to die ; it is the most comick part of the whole play. 
All passions may be lively represented on the stage, 
if to the well-writing of them the actor supplies a good 
commanded voice, and limbs that move easily, and 
15 without stiffness ; but there are many actions which 
can never be imitated to a just height : dying espe 
cially is a thing which none but a Roman gladiator 
could naturally perform on the stage, when he did not 
imitate or represent, but do it 1 ; and therefore it is 
20 better to omit the representation of it. 

'The words of a good writer, which describe it 

lively, will make a deeper impression of belief in us 

than all the actor can insinuate into us 2 n , when he 

seems to fall dead before us ; as a poet in the descrip- 

25 tion of a beautiful garden, or a meadow, will please our 

imagination more than the place itself can please our 

A j sight. When we see death represented, we are con- 

I vinced it is but fiction ; but when we hear it related, 

our eyes, the strongest witnesses, are wanting, which 

30 might have undeceived us ; and we are all willing to 

favour the sleight, when the poet does not too grossly 

1 naturally do it, A. 2 perswade us to, A. 


impose on us. They therefore who imagine these 
relations would make no concernment in the audience, 
are deceived, by confounding them with the other, 
which are of things antecedent to the play : those are 
made often in cold blood, as I may say, to the audience ; 5 
but these are warmed with our concernments, which 
were before awakened in the play. What the philo 
sophers say of motion, that, when it is once begun, it 
continues of itself, and will do so to eternity, without 
some stop put to it, is clearly true on this occasion : 10 
the soul, being already moved with the characters and 
fortunes of those imaginary persons, continues going 
of its own apcord ; and we are no more weary to hear 
what becomes of them when they are not on the stage, 
than we are- to listen to the news of an absent mistress. 15 
But it is objected, that if one part of the play may be 
related, then why not all ? I answer, some parts of 
the action are more fit to be represented, some to be 
related. Corneille says judiciously n , that the poet is 
not obliged to expose to view all particular actions 20 
which conduce to the principal : he ought to select 
such of them to be seen, which will appear with the 
greatest beauty, either by the magnificence of the 
show, or the vehemence of passions which they pro 
duce, or some other charm which they have in them ; 25 
and let the rest arrive to the audience by narration. 
'Tis a great mistake in us to believe the French 
present no part of the action on the stage; every 
alteration or crossing of a design, every new-sprung 
passion, and turn of it, is a part of the action, and 30 
much the noblest, except we conceive nothing to be 
action till the players come 1 to blows ; as if the painting 

1 they come, A 


' of the hero's mind were not more properly the poet's 
work than the strength of his body. Nor does this 
anything contradict the opinion of Horace, where he 
tells us, 

5 Segnius irritant animos demissa per aurem, 

Quam qua stint oculis subjecta fide[ibus. 

For he says immediately after, 

Non tamen intus 

Digna geri promes in scenam ; multaq ; tolles 
IO Ex ocTtlis, qua: mox narret facundia prasens. 

Among which many he recounts some : 

Nee pueros coram populo Medea trucidet, 

Aut in avem Progne mutetur, Cadmus in angtiem* ; &V. 

That is, those actions which by reason of their cruelty 
15 will cause aversion in us, or by reason of their im 
possibility, unbelief, ought either wholly to be avoided 
by a poet, or only delivered by narration. To which 
we may have leave to add, such as, to avoid tumult, 
(as was before hinted,) or to reduce the plot into 
20 a more reasonable compass of time, or for defect of 
beauty in them, are rather to be related than presented 
to the eye. Examples of all these kinds are frequent, 
not only among all the ancients, but in the best re 
ceived of our English poets. We find Ben Johnson 
25 using them in his Magnetick Lady", where one comes 
out from dinner, and relates the quarrels and dis 
orders of it, to save the undecent appearance of them 
on the stage, and to abbreviate the story; and this 
in express imitation of Terence, who had done the 


same before him in his Eunuch, where Pythias makes 
the like relation of what had happened within at the 
Soldiers ' entertainment. The relations likewise of 
Sej anus's death, and the prodigies before it, are 
remarkable ; the one of which was hid from sight, 5 
to avoid the horrour and tumult of the representa 
tion; the other, to shun the introducing of things 
impossible to be believed. In that excellent play, 
The King and no King*, Fletcher goes yet farther; 
for the whole unravelling of the plot is done by 10 
narration in the fifth act, after the manner of the 
ancients; and it moves great concernment in the 
audience, though it be only a relation of what was 
done many years before the play. I could multiply 
other instances, but these are sufficient to prove that 15 
there is no errour in choosing a subject which re 
quires this sonfc of narrations ; in the ill management 2 
of them, there may. 

' But I find I have been too long in this discourse, 
since the French have many other excellencies not 20 
common to us ; as that you never see any of their 
plays end with a conversion, or simple change of 
will n , which is the ordinary way which our poets 
use to end theirs. It shews little art in the con 
clusion of a dramatick poem, when they who have 25 
hindered the felicity during the four acts, desist from 
it in the fifth, without some powerful cause to take 
them off their design 3 ; and though I deny not but 
'such reasons may be found, yet it is a path that is 
cautiously to be trod, and the poet is to be sure he 30 
convinces the audience that the motive is strong 

1 Souldiers, A 2 managing, A 3 A om. their design. 



enough. As for example, the conversion of the 
Usurer in The Scornful Lady, seems to me a little 
forced ; for, being an Usurer, which implies a lover 
of money to the highest degree of covetousness, 
5 and such the poet has represented him, the account 
he gives for the sudden change is, that he has been 
duped by the wild young fellow; which in reason 
might render him more wary another time, and make 
him punish himself with harder fare and coarser 

10 clothes, to get up again what he had lost a : but that 
he should look on it as a judgment, and so repent, we 
may expect to hear 2 in a sermon, but I should never 
endure it in a play. 

'I pass by this; neither will I insist on the care 

15 they take, that no person after his first entrance shall 
ever appear, but the business which brings him upon 
the stage shall be evident ; which rule 3 , if observed, 
must needs render all the events in the play more 
natural ; for there you see the probability of every 

20 accident, in the cause that produced it ; and that 
which appears chance in the play, will seem so 
reasonable to you, that you will there find it almost 
necessary : so that in the exit of the actor 4 you have 
a clear account of his 5 purpose and design in the next 

25 entrance ; (though, if the scene be well wrought, the 
event will commonly deceive you ;) for there is no 
thing so absurd, says Corneille, as for an actor to 
leave the stage, only because he has no more to say n . 
' I should now speak of the beauty of their rhyme, 

30 and the just reason I have to prefer that way of 

1 to get it up again, A. 2 hear of, A. 3 A om. rule, 

4 exits of the Actors, A. 5 their, A. 


writing in tragedies before ours in blank verse ; but 
because it is partly received by us, and therefore not 
altogether peculiar to them, I will say no more of it 
in relation to their plays. For our own, I doubt not 
but it will exceedingly beautify them ; and I can see 5 
but one reason why it should not generally obtain, 
that is, because our poets write so ill in it. This 
indeed may prove a more prevailing argument than 
all others which are used to destroy it, and therefore 
I am only troubled when great and judicious poets, 10 
and those who are acknowledged such, have writ 
or spoke against it : as for others, they are to be an 
swered by that one sentence of an ancient author : 
Sed ut primo ad consequendos eos quos priores ducimus, 
accendimur, ita ubi aut prceteriri, aut cequari eos posse 15 
desperavimus, studium cum spe senescit : quod, scilicet, 
assequi non potest, sequi desinit ; . . . prceteritoque eo in 
quo eminere non possumus, aliquid in quo nitamur, 
conquirimus V 

Lisideius concluded in this manner ; and Neander, 
after a little pause, thus answered him : 

'I shall grant Lisideius, without much dispute, 
a great part of what he has urged against us ; for 
I acknowledge that the French contrive their plots 
more regularly, and observe the laws of comedy, and 25 
decorum of the stage, (to speak generally,) with more 
exactness than the English. Farther, I deny not 
but he has taxed us justly in some irregularities of 
'ours, which he has mentioned; yet, after all, I am 
of opinion that neither our faults nor their virtues 3 
are considerable enough to place them above us. 

1 For the lively imitation of nature being in the 


definition of a play, those which best fulfil that law 
ought to be esteemed superior to the others. J Tis 
true, those beauties of the French _ poesy are such 
as will raise perfection higher where it is, but are 
5 not sufficient to give it where it is not : they are 
indeed the beauties of a statue, but not of a man, 
because not animated with the soul of poesy, which 
is imitation of humour and passions : and this Lisi- 
deius himself, or any other, however biassed to their 

10 party, cannot but acknowledge, if he will either com 
pare the humours of our comedies, or the characters 
of our serious plays, with theirs. He who l will look 
upon theirs which have been written till these last 
ten years, or thereabouts, will find it an hard matter 

15 to pick out two or three passable humours amongst 
them. Corneille himself, their arch-poet, what has 
he produced except The Liar li , and you know how 
it was cried up in France; but when it came upon 
the English stage, though well translated, and that 

20 part of Dorant acted to so much advantage 2 as I am 
confident it never received in its own country, the 
most favourable to it would not put it 3 in competition 
with many of Fletcher's or Ben Johnson's n . In the 
rest of Corneille's comedies you have little humour ; 

25 he tells you himself, his way is, first to shew two 
lovers in good intelligence with each other; in the 
working up of the play to embroil them by some 
mistake, and in the latter end to clear it, and reconcile 
them 4 . 

30 ' But of late years Moliere 5 , the younger Corneille, 

1 He that, A. 2 A adds>by Mr. Hart.' 3 A om. it. 

* to clear it up, A. 5 de Moliere, A. 


Quinault, and some others, have been imitating afar 
off 1 the quick turns and graces of the English stage. 
They have mixed their serious plays with mirth, 
like our tragicomedies, since the death of Cardinal 
Richelieu n ; which Lisideius and many others not 5 
observing, have commended that in them for a virtue 
which they themselves no longer practise. Most of 
their new plays are, like some of ours, derived from 
the Spanish novels n . There is scarce one of them 
without a veil, and a trusty Diego, who drolls much 10 
after the rate of The Adventures n . But their humours, 
if I may grace them with that name, are so thin-sown, 
that never above one of them comes up in any play. 
I dare take upon me to find more variety of them 
in some one play of Ben Johnson's, than in all theirs 15 
together; as he who has seen The Alchemist, The 
Silent Woman, or Bartholomew -Fair, cannot but ac- 
'knowledge with me. 

> ' I grant the French have performed what was 
possible on the ground-work of the Spanish plays ; 20 
what was pleasant before, they have made regular : 
but there is not above one good play to be writ on 
all those plots ; they are too much alike to please 
often ; which we need not the experience of our own 
stage to justify. As for their new way of mingling 25 
mirth with serious plot, I do not, with Lisideius, con 
demn the thing, though I cannot approve their manner 
of doing it. He tells us, we cannot so speedily re- 

collect ourselves after a scene of great passion and 
concernment, as to pass to another of mirth and 30 
humour, and to enjoy it with any relish : but why 

1 of afar off, A. 


should he imagine the soul of man more heavy than 
his senses ? Does not the eye pass from an unplea 
sant object to a pleasant in a much shorter time than 
is required to this ? and does not the unpleasantness 
5 of the first commend the beauty of the latter ? The 
old rule of logick n might have convinced him, that 
contraries, when placed near, set off each other. A 
continued gravity keeps the spirit too much bent ; we 
must refresh it sometimes, as we bait in a journey, 

10 that we may go on with greater ease. A scene of 
mirth, mixed with tragedy, has the same effect upon 
us which our musick has betwixt the acts ; which we 
find l a relief to us from the best plots and language 
of the stage, if the discourses have been long. I 

15 must therefoe_have stronger arguments, ere I am 
convinced" that compassion and mirth in the same 
subject destroy each other; and in the mean time 
cannot but conclude, to the honour of our nation, that 
we have invented, increased, and perfected a more 
pleasant way of writing for the stage, than was ever 
known to the ancients or moderns of any nation, 
which is tragi-comedy. 

' And this leads me to wonder why Lisideius and 
many others should cry up the barrenness of the 

25 French plots, above the variety and copiousness of 
the English. Their plots are single ; they carry on 
one design, which is pushed forward by all the actors, 
every scene in the play contributing and moving to 
wards it. Our plays 2 , besides the main design, have 

30 under-plots or by-concernments, of less considerable 
persons and intrigues, which are carried on with the 

1 and that we find, A. * Ours, A. 


motion of the main plot : as l they say the orb of the 
fixed stars, and those of the planets, though they have 
motions of their own, are whirled about by the motion 
of the primum mobile, in which they are contained n . 
That similitude expresses much of the English stage; 5 
for if contrary motions may be found in nature to 
agree ; if a planet can go east and west at the same 
time ; one way by virtue of his own motion, the 
other by the force of the first mover ; it will not be 
difficult to imagine how the under-plot, which is only 10 
different, not contrary to the great design, may natur 
ally be conducted along with it. 

' Eugenius has already shewn us, from the confes 
sion of the French poets, that the unity of action is 
sufficiently preserved, if all the imperfect actions of 15 
the play are conducing to the main design ; but when 
those petty intrigues of a play are so ill ordered, 
that they have no coherence with the other, I must 
grant that Lisideius has reason to tax that want of 
due connexion ; for co-ordination in a play is as dan- 20 
gerous and unnatural as in a state. In the mean time 
he must acknowledge, our variety, if well ordered, 
will afford a greater pleasure to the audience. 

'As for his other argument, that by pursuing one 
single theme they gain an advantage to express and 25 
work up the passions, I wish any example he could 
bring from them would make it good ; for I confess 
their verses are to me the coldest I have ever read. 
Neither, indeed, is it possible for them, in the way 
they take, so to express passion, as that the effects 3 
of it should appear in the concernment of an audience, 

1 just as, A. 


their speeches being so many declamations, which 
tire us with the length ; so that instead of persuading 
us to grieve for their imaginary heroes, we are con 
cerned for our own trouble, as we are in tedious 1 
5 visits of bad company ; we are in pain till they are 
gone. When the French stage came to be reformed 
by Cardinal Richelieu, those long harangues were 
introduced to comply with the gravity of a churchman. 
Look upon the Cinna and the Pompey; they are not 
10 so properly to be called plays, as long discourses of 
reason of state ; and Polyeucte in matters of religion 
is as solemn as the long stops upon our organs". 
Since that time it is grown into a custom, and their 
actors speak by the hour-glass, like our parsons 2 ;* 
15 nay, they account it the grace of their parts, and 
think themselves disparaged by the poet, if they may 
not twice or thrice in a play entertain the audience 
with a speech of an hundred lines 3 . I deny not but 
this may suit well enough with the French ; for as 
20 we, who are a more sullen people, come to be 
) diverted at our plays, so they, who are of an airy 
^ and gay temper, come thither to make themselves 
L more serious : and this I conceive to be one reason 
why comedies are 4 more pleasing to us, and tragedies 
25 to them. But to speak generally : it cannot be denied 
that short speeches and replies are more apt to move 
the passions and beget concernment in us, than the 

* Formerly an hour-glass ' was fixed on the pulpit in all our 
churches. (Malone.) 

1 the tedious, A. 2 as our Parsons do, A. 

8 an hundred or two hundred lines, A. 

* so C ; Comedy's are, B ; Comedy is, A. 


other; for it is unnatural for any one in a gust of 
passion to speak long together, or for another in the 
same condition to suffer him, without interruption. 
Grief and passion are like floods raised in little 
brooks by a sudden rain ; they are quickly up ; and 5 
if the concernment be poured unexpectedly in upon 
us, it overflows us : but a long sober shower gives 
them leisure to run out as they came in, without 
troubling the ordinary current. As for comedy, re 
partee is one of its cjiiefest graces ; the greatest 10 
pleasure of the audience .is* a chace of wit n , kept up 
on both sides, and swiftly managed. And this our 
forefathers, i*w>t we, have had in Fletcher's plays, 
to a much higher degree of perfection than the 
French poets can reasonably hope to reach *. 15 

' There is another part of Lisideius his discourse, 
in which he has rather excused our neighbours, than 
commended them ; that is, for aiming only to make 
one person considerable in their plays. 'Tis very 
true what he has urged, that one character in all 20 
plays, even without the poet's care, will have ad 
vantage of all the others ; and that the design of the 
whole drama will chiefly depend on it. But this 
hinders not that there may be more shining characters 
in the play : many persons of a second magnitude, 25 
nay, some so very near, so almost equal to the first, 
that greatness may be opposed to greatness, and all 
the persons be made considerable, not only by their 
quality, but their action. Tis evident that the more 
the persons are, the greater will be the variety of the 30 
plot. If then the parts are managed so regularly, 
1 can arrive at, A. 


that the beauty of the whole be kept entire, and that 
the variety become not a perplexed and confused 
mass of accidents, you will find it infinitely pleasing 
to be led in a labyrinth of design, where you see 

Csome of your way before you, yet discern not the 
end till you arrive at it. And that all this is prac 
ticable, I can produce for examples many of our 
English plays : as The Maid's Tragedy, The Alchemist, 
The Silent Woman : I was going to have named The 

i Fox n , but that the unity of design seems not exactly 
observed in it; for there appear 1 two actions in the 
play; the first naturally ending with the fourth act; 
the second forced from it in the fifth : which yet is 
the less to be condemned in him, because the dis- 

15 guise of Volpone, though it suited not with his 
character as a crafty or covetous person, agreed well 
enough with that of a voluptuary ; and by it the poet 
gained the end at which he aym'd 2 , the punishment 
of vice, and the reward of virtue, both 3 which that 

20 disguise produced. So that to judge equally of it, 
it was an excellent fifth actTHBut not so naturally 
proceeding from the former. 

But to leave this, and pass to the latter part of 
Lisideius his discourse, which concerns relations: 

25 I must acknowledge with him, that the French have 
reason to hide 4 that j)art of the^ action which, would 
occasion too much tumult on the stage, and to choose 5 
rather to have it made known by narration to the 
audience. Farther, I think it very convenient, for 

30 the reasons he has given, that all incredible actions 

1 appears, A. 2 the end lie aym'd at, A. 3 A om. both. 
* when they hide, A. 5 and choose, A. 


were removed; but, whether custom has so insinu 
ated itself into our countrymen, or nature has so 
formed them to fierceness, I know not ; but they will 
scarcely suffer combats and other objects of horrour 
to be taken from them. And indeed, the indecency 5 
of tumults is all which can be objected against 
fighting : for why may not our imagination as well i rf 
suffer itself to be deluded with the probability of it, I / 
as with any other thing in the play ? For my part, 
I can with as great ease persuade myself that the i 
blows 1 arc given in good earnest, as I can, that they 
who strike them are kings or princes, or those persons 
which they represent. For objects of incredibility, 
I would be satisfied' from Lisideius, whether we have 
any so removed from all appearance of truth, as are 15 
those of Corneille's Andromede^\ a play which has 
been frequented the most of any he has writ. If 
the Perseus, or the son of an heathen god, the 
Pegasus, and the Monster, were not capable to choke 
a strong belief, let him blame any representation of 20 
ours hereafter. Those indeed were objects of de 
light ; yet the reason is the same as to the probability: 
for he makes it not a Ballette 2 $ 

which is to resemble truth. But for-uieatk^that it 
ought not to be represented, I have,, besides the 25 
arguments alledged by Lisideius, the authority of 
Ben Johnson, who has forborn it in his tragedies; 
for both the death of Sejanus and Catiline are re 
lated : though in the latter I cannot but observe one 
irregularity of that great poet ; he has removed the 30 
scene in the same act from Rome to Catiline's army, 

1 the blowes which are struck, A. 2 Balette, C. 

and from thence again to Rome; and besides, has 
allowed a very inconsiderable time, after Catiline's 
speech, for the striking of the battle, and the return 
of Petreius, who is to relate the event of it to the 
5 senate : which I should not animadvert on him, who 
was otherwise a painful observer of irpenov, or the 
decorum of the stage, if he had not used extreme 
severity in his judgment on the incomparable 
Shakspeare for the same fault n . To conclude on 

10 this subject of relations ; if we are to be blamed for 
shewing too much of the action, the~"Frencli are as 
faulty for discovering too little of it : a mean betwixt 
both should be observed by every judicious; "writer, 
so as the audience may neither be left unsatisfied by 

i5~hot seeing what is beautiful, or shocked by beholding 
what is either incredible or undecent. 

''I hope I have already proved in this discourse, 
that though we are not altogether so punctual as the 
French, in observing the laws of comedy, yet our 

20 errours are so few, and little, and those things 
wherein we excel them so considerable, that we 
ought of right to be preferred before them. But 
what will Lisideius say, if they themselves acknow 
ledge they are too strictly bounded 1 by those laws, 

25 for breaking which he has blamed the English ? 
\i I will alledge Corneille's words, as I find them in 
the end of his Discourse of the three Unities : II 
est facile aux speculatifs d'estre sever es &c. "'Tis 
easy for speculative persons to judge severely; but 

jo if they would produce to publick view ten or twelve 
pieces of this nature, they would perhaps give more 
1 ti'd up, A. 


latitude to the rules than I have done, when, by ex ^ 
perience, they had known how much we are limited 1 / 
and constrained by them, and how many beauties 
of the stage they banished from it." To illustrate a ' 
little what he has said : Bytheir servile observation"; j 
o~ the. iiniiiea of time and place, and- in-tegrity of 
scenes, they have brought on themselves that dearth 
j)fj3lot, and narrowness of imagination, which may 
be observed in all their plays. How many beautiful 
accidents might naturally happen in two or three 10 
days, which cannot arrive with any probability in 
the compass of twenty-four hours? There is time 
to be allowed also for maturity of design, which, 
amongst great and prudent persons, such as are 
often represented in tragedy, cannot, with any likeli- 15 
hood of truth, be brought to pass at so short a warn 
ing. Fajther; bjL-ty4ft^-4hemselves strictly to the 
unity of place, and unbroken scenes, they are forced 
malhy times to omit some beauties which cannot be. 
sITewn where the act began ; but might, if the scene 20 
were interrupted, and the stage cleared for the persons 
to enter in another place ; and therefore the French 
poets are often forced upon absurdities ; for if the 
act begins in a chamber, all the persons in the play 
must have some business or other to come thither, 25 
or else they are not to be shewn that act ; and some 
times their characters are very unfitting to appear 
there : as, 'suppose it were the king's bed-chamber ; 
yet the meanest man in the tragedy must come and 
dispatch his business there, rather than in the lobby 30 
or courtyard, (which is fitter for him,) for fear the 

1 bound up, A. 


stage should be cleared, and the scenes broken. 
Many times they fall by it in a greater inconvenience ; 
for they keep their scenes unbroken, and yet change 
the place ; as in one of their newest plays n , where 

5 the act begins in the street. There a gentleman is to 
meet his friend ; he sees him with his man, coming 
out from his father's house ; they talk together, and 
the first goes out : the second, who is a lover, has 
made an appointment with his mistress ; she appears 

10 at the window, and then we are to imagine the scene 

lies under it. This gentleman is called away, and 

leaves his servant with his mistress; presently her 

J father is heard from within ; the young lady is afraid 

the servingman should be discovered, and thrusts him 

15 into a place of safety 1 , which is supposed to be her 
closet. After this, the father enters to the daughter, 
and now the scene is in a house ; for he is seeking 
from one room to another for this poor Philipin, or 
French Diego n , who is heard from within, drolling 

20 and breaking many a miserable conceit on the subject 
of his sad 2 condition. In this ridiculous manner the 
play goes forward 3 , the stage being never empty all 
the while : so that the street, the window, the houses, 
and the closet, are made to walk about, and the per- 

25 sons to stand still. Now what, I beseech you, is more 
easy than to write a regular French play, or more 
difficult than to write an irregular English one, like 
those of Fletcher, or of Shakspeare ? 

' If they content themselves, as Corneille did, with 

30 some flat design, which, like an ill riddle, is found 

1 for ' into a place of safety,' A has ' in through a door.' 

2 upon his sad, A. 3 goes on, A. 


out ere it be half proposed, such plots we can make 
every way regular, as easily as they ; but whenever 
they endeavour to rise to any quick turns and coun- 
terturns of plot, as some of them have attempted, 
since Corneille's plays have been less in vogue, you 5 
see they write as irregularly as we, though they cover 
it more speciously. Hence the reason is perspicuous, 
why no French plays, when translated, have, or ever 
can succeed on the English stage. For, if you con 
sider the plots, our own are fuller of varietyjir the 10 
writing, ours are more quick and fuller of spirit ; and 
therefore 'tis a strange mistake in those who decry 
the way of writing plays in verse, as if the English 
therein imitated the French. We have borrowed 
nothing from them ; our plots are weaved in English 15 
looms: we endeavour therein to follow the variety 
and greatness of characters which are derived to us 
from Shakspeare and Fletcher ; the copiousness and 
well-knitting of the intrigues we have from Johnson ; 
and for the verse itself we have English precedents 20 
of elder date than any of Corneille's plays. Not to 
name our old comedies before Shakspeare, which 
were all writ in verse of six feet, or Alexandrines n , 
such as the French now use, I can shew in Shak 
speare, many scenes of rhyme together, and the like 25 
in Ben Johnson's tragedies : in Catiline and Sejanus 
sometimes thirty or forty lines, I mean besides the 
Chorus, or the monologues; which, by the way, 
shewed Ben no enemy to this way of writing, espe 
cially if you read L his Sad Shepherd n , which goes 30 
sometimes on rhyme, sometimes on blank v^erse, like 

1 look upon, A. 


an horse who eases himself on trot and amble. You 
find him likewise commending Fletcher's pastoral of 
The Faithful Shepherdess n , which is for the most part 
rhyme, though not refined to that purity to which it hath 

5 since been brought. And these examples are enough 
to clear us from a servile imitation of the French. 

' But to return whence ' n I have digressed : I dare 
boldly affirm these two things of the English drama ; 
First, that we have many plays of ours as regular 

10 as any of theirs, and which, besides, have more 
variety of plot and characters ; and secondly, that in 
most of the irregular plays of Shakspeare or Fletcher, 
(for Ben Johnson's are for the most part regular,) 
there is a more masculine fancy and greater spirit in 

'5 the writing, than there is in any of the French. I 
could produce, even in Shakspeare's and Fletcher's 
works, some plays which are almost exactly formed ; 
as The Merry Wives of Windsor^, and The Scornful 
Lady : but because (generally speaking) Shakspeare, 

20 who writ first, did not perfectly observe the laws of 
comedy, and Fletcher, who came nearer to perfection, 
yet through carelessness made many faults; I will 
take the pattern of a perfect play from Ben Johnson, 
who was a careful and learned observer of the dra- 

25 matick laws, and from all his comedies I shall select 
The Silent Woman ; of which I will make a short 
examen, according to those rules which the French 

As Neander was beginning to examine The Silent 

30 Woman, Eugenius, earnestly regarding him 2 ; 'I 
beseech you, Neander/ said he, 'gratify the company, 

1 from whence, A. 2 looking earnestly upon him, A. 


and me in particular, so far, as before you speak of 
the play, to give us a character of the author; and" 
tell us frankly your opinion, whether you do not 
think all writers, both French and English, ought to 
give place to him.' 5 

'I fear/ replied Neander, 'that in obeying your 
commands I shall draw some envy 1 on myself. 
Besides, in performing them, it will be first necessary 
to speak somewhat of Shakspeare and Fletcher, his 
rivals in poesy; and one of them, in my opinion, 10 
at least his equal, perhaps his superior. 

'To begin, then, with Shakspeare. He was the 
man who of all modern, and perhaps ancient poets, 
Had the largesj and mo^t rnmpr^Ti^ngiYe souL ATT" 
thejmages of nature were still present to him, and 15 
he drew them, not laboriously, but luckily ; when 
he describes any thing, you more than see it, you 
feel it too. Those who accuse him to have wanted 
learning, give him the greater commendation : he 
was naturally learned ; he needed not the spectacles 20 
of books to read nature ; he looked inwards, and 
found her there. I cannot say he is every where 
alike ; were he so, I should do him injury to compare 
him with the greatest of mankind. He is many 
times flat, insipid ; his comick wit degenerating into 25 
clenches, his seriftpg gw^lling intn hnmfrast- But 
he is always great, when some great occasion is 
presented to him ; no man can say he ever had a fit 
subject for his wit, and did not then raise himself 
as high above the rest of poets, 3 

Quantum lenta solent inter viburna 

1 a little envy, A. 
F 3 


The consideration of this made Mr. Hales 11 of Eaton 
say, that there was no subject of which any poet ever 
writ, but he would produce it much better done 1 in 
Shakspeare; and however others are now generally 

5 preferred before him, yet the age wherein he lived, 
which had contemporaries with him Fletcher and 
Johnson, never equalled them to him in their esteem : 
and in the last king's court, when Ben's reputation 
was at highest, Sir John Suckling, and with him the 

10 greater part of the courtiers, set our Shakspeare far 
above him. 

'Beaumont and Fletcher, of whom I am next to 
speak, had, with the advantage of Shakspearg's wit, 
which was their precedent, great natural gift, im- 

15 proved by study: Beaumont especially being so accu 
rate a judge of plays, that Ben Johnson, while he 
lived, submitted all his writings to his censure, and, 
'tis thought, used his judgment in correcting, if not 
contriving, all his plots. What value he had for him, 

20 appears by the verses he writ to him n ; and therefore 
I need speak no farther of it. The first play that 
brought Fletcher and him in esteem was their Phi- 
taster* : for before that, they had written two or three 
very unsuccessfully, as the like is reported of Ben 

5 Johnson, before he writ Every Man in his Humour. 
Their plots were generally more regular than Shak- 
speare's, especially those which were made before 
Beaumont's death*; and they understood and imitated 

1 treated of, A. 

* Sir Aston Cokain long since complained, that the booksellers 
who, in 1647, published thirty- four plays under the names of 
Beaumont and Fletcher, had not ascertained how many of them 
were written solely by Fletcher : 


the conversation of gentlemen much better; whose 
wild debaucheries, and quickness of wit in reparties, 
no poet before them could paint * as they have done. 
Humour, which 2 Ben Johnson derived from particular 
persons, they made it not their business to describe : 5 
they represented all the passions very lively, but above 
all, love. I am apt to believe the English language 
in them arrived to its highest perfection : what words 
have since been taken in, are rather superfluous than 
ornamental 3 . Their plays n are now the most pleasant 10 
and frequent entertainments of the stage; two of 
theirs being acted through the year for one of Shak- 
speare's or Johnson's: the reason is, because there is 
a certain gaiety in their comedies, and pathos in their 
more serious plays, which suits generally with all 15 
men's humours. Shakspeare's language is likewise 
a little obsolete, and Ben Johnson's wit comes short 
of theirs. 

'As for Johnson, to whose character I am now 
arrived, if we look upon him while he was himself, 20 
(for his last plays were but his dotages n ,) I think him 
the most learned and Judicious writer which any 
theatre-ever had. He was a most severe jud^e of 
himself, as well as others,. One cannot say he wanted 
wit, but rather that he was frugal of it. In his works 25 

'In the large book of plays you late did print, 
In Beaumont's and in Fletcher's name, why in't 
Did you not justice ? give to each his due ? 
For Beaumont of those many writ in few ; 
And Massinger in other few : the main 
Being sole issues of sweet Fletcher's brain.' (MaTone.) 
1 for ' before them could paint ' A has ' can ever paint.' 
3 This Humour of which, A. 3 necessary, A. 


you find little to retrench or alter. Wi^andjari^uage, 
and humour also in some measure, we had before 
him; but something of art was wanting to the drama, 
till he came. He managed his strength to more 
5 advantage than any who preceded him. You seldom 
find him making love in any of his scenes, or en 
deavouring to move the passions ; his genius was too 
sullen and saturnine to do it gracefully, especially 
when he knew he came after those who had per- 

10 formed both to such an height. JIumour was big- 
proper sphere: ,and in that h*> flighted mr^t tn 
represent mechanick people. He was deeply con- 
versant in the ancients, both Greek and Latin, and 
he borrowed boldly from them : there is scarce a poet 

15 or historian among the Roman authors of those times 
whom he has not translated in Sejanus and Catiline. 
But he has done his robberies so openly, that one 
may see he fears not to be taxed by any law. He 
invades authors like a monarchj and what would be 

zojheft in other poets, is only vicfnry in him. With the 
spoils of these writers he so represents old Rome to 
us, in its rites, ceremonies, and customs, that if one of 
their poets had written either of his tragedies, we had 
seen less of it than in him. If there was any fault in 

25 his language, 'twas that he weaved it too closely and 
laboriously, in his comedies especially, 1 : perhaps too, 
he did a little too much Romanize our tongue, leaving 
the words which he translated almost as much Latin 
as he found them : wherein, though he learnedly fol- 

30 lowed their 2 language, he did not enough comply with 

1 for ' comedies especially ' A has ' serious Playes.' 

2 the idiom of their, A. 


the idiom of ours. If I would compare him with 
Shakspeare, I must acknowledge him the more correct 
poet, but Shakspeare the greater wit. Shakspeare 
was the Homer, or father of bur dramatick poets; 
Johnson was the Virgil, the pattern of elaborate 5 
writing; I admire him, but I love Shakspeare. To 
conclude of him ; as he has given us the most correct 
plays, so in the precepts which he has laid down in 
his Discoveries*, we have as many and profitable rules 
for perfecting the stage, as any wherewith the French 10 
can furnish us. 

' Having thus spoken of the author, I proceed to 
the examination of his comedy, The Silent Woman*. 


'To begin first with the Jength of the action; it 15 
is so far from exceeding the compass of a natural 
day, that it takes not up an artificial one. 'Tis all 
included in the limits of three hours and an half, 
which is no more than is required for the presentment 
on the stage : a beauty perhaps not much observed ; 20 
if it had, we should not have looked on the Spanish 
translation of Five Hours* with so much wonder. 
The scene of it is laid in London; the latitude of 
place is almost as little as you can imagine; for it 
lies all within the compass of two houses, and after 25 
the first act, in one. The continuity of scenes is 
observed more than in any of our plays, except his 
own Fox and Alchemist. They are not broken above 
twice or thrice at most in the whole comedy ; and in 
the two best of Corneille's plays, the Cid and Cmna, 3 
* See p. 5,5. 


they are interrupted once 1 . The action of the play 
is entirely one ; the end or aim of which is the settling 
Morose's estate on Dauphine. The intrigue of it is 
the greatest and most noble of any pure unmixed 
5 comedy in any language ; you see in it many persons 
of various characters and humours, and all delightful. 
As first, Morose, or an old man, to whom all noise 
but his own talking is offensive. Some who would 
be thought criticks, say this humour of his is forced : 

10 but to remove that objection, we may consider him 
first to be naturally of a delicate hearing, as many 
are, to whom all sharp sounds are unpleasant ; and 
secondly, we may attribute much of it to the peevish 
ness of his age, or the wayward authority of an old 

15 man in his own house, where he may make himself 
obeyed; and to this the poet seems to allude 2 in his 
name Morose. Besides this, I am assured from divers 
persons, that Ben Johnson was actually acquainted 
with such a man, one altogether as ridiculous as he is 

20 here represented. Others say, it is not enough to 
find one man of such an humour; it must be common 
to more, and the more common the more natural. 
To prove this, they instance 11 in the best of, comical 
characters, Falstaff. There are many men resembling 

25 him; old, fat, merry, cowardly, drunken, amorous, 
vain, and lying. But to convince these people, I 
need but tell them, that humour is the ridiculous 
extravagance of conversation, wherein one man differs 
from all others. If then it be common, or communi- 

30 cated to many, how differs it from other men's ? or 
what indeed causes it to be ridiculous so much as the 
1 once apiece, A. a this . . . seems to allude to, A. 


singularity of it ? As for Falstaff, he is not properly 
one humour, but a miscellany of humours or images, 
drawn from so many several men : that wherein he is 
singular is his wit 1 , or those things he says prceter 
exp'ectatum, unexpected by the audience ; his quick 5 
evasions, when, you imagine him surprised, which, 
as they are extremely diverting of themselves, so 
receive a great addition from his person; for the 
very sight of such an unwieldy old debauched fellow 
is a comedy alone. And here, having a place so 10 
proper for it, I cannot but enlarge somewhat upon this 
subject of humour into which I am fallen. The 
ancients had little of it in their comedies ; for the 
TO yeXoIoi^ of the old comedy, of which Aristophanes 
was chief, was not so much to imitate a man, as to 15 
make the people laugh at some odd conceit, which 
had commonly somewhat of unnatural or obscene in 
it. Thus, when you see Socrates brought upon the 
stage, you are not to imagine him made ridiculous 
by the imitation of his actions, but rather by making 20 
him perform something very unlike himself; some 
thing so childish and absurd, as by comparing it with 
the gravity of the true Socrates, makes a ridiculous 
object for the spectators. In their new comedy which 
succeeded, the poets sought indeed to express the 25 
?]6os, as in their tragedies the wOos of mankind n . But 
this rjdos contained only the general characters of men 
and manners ; as old men, lovers, serving-men, cour- 
tezans, parasites, and such other persons as we see 
in. their comedies-; all which they made alike : that is, 30 
one old man or father, one lover, one courtezan, so 
1 in his wit, A. 


like another, as if the first of them had begot the 
of every sort : Ex honiine hunc natum dicas n . The 
same custom they observed likewise in their tragedies. 
As for the French, though they have the word humeur 
5 among them, yet they have small use of it in their 
comedies or farces ; they being but^ ill imitations of 
the ridiculum, or that which stirred up laughter in the 
old comedy. But among the English 'tis otherwise : 
where by humour is meant some extravagant _habit, 

10 passion, or affection, particular (as I said before) to 
some one person, by the oddness of which, he is 
immediately distinguished from the rest of men ; 
which being lively and naturally represented, most 
frequently begets that malicious pleasure in the 

15 audience which is testified by laughter; as all things 
which are deviations from customs 1 are ever the aptest 
to produce it : though by the way this laughter is only 
accidental, as the person represented is fantastick or 
bizarre ; but pleasure is essential to it, as the imitation 

20 of what is natural. The description of these humours, 
drawn from the knowledge and observation of par 
ticular persons, was the peculiar genius and talent of 
Ben Johnson; to whose play I now return. 

' Besides Morose, there are at least nine or ten dif- 

25 ferent characters and humours in The Silent Woman ; 
all which persons have several concernments of their 
own, yet are all used by the poet, to the conducting 
of the main design to perfection. I shall not waste 
time in commending the writing of this play ; but I 

30 will give you my opinion, that there is more wit and 
acuteness of fancy in it than in any of Ben Johnson's. 

1 common customes, A. 


Besides "that he has here described the conversation 
of gentlemen in the persons of True- Wit, aji j, his 
friends, with more gaiety, air, and freedom, than in 
the rest of his comedies. For the contrivance of the 
plot, 'tis extreme ' elaborate, and yet withal easy ; for 5 
the AiW 2 , or untying of it, 'tis so admirable, that when 
it is done, no one of the audience would think the 
poet could have missed it ; and yet it was concealed 
so much before the last scene, that any other way 
would sooner have entered into your thoughts. But 10 
I dare not take upon me to commend the fabrick of it, 
because it is altogether so full of art, that I must un 
ravel every scene in it to commend it as I ought. 
And this excellent contrivance is still the more to be 
admired, because 'tis comedy, where the persons are 15 
only of common rank, and their business private, not 
elevated by passions or high concernments, as in 
serious plays. Here every one is a proper judge of 
all he sees, nothing is represented but that with which 
he daily converses : so that by consequence all faults 20 
lie open to discovery, and few are pardonable. 'Tis 
this which Horace has judiciously observed : 

Creditur, ex media quid res arcessit, haber& 
Sudoris minimum; sed habet Comedia tanto 
Plus oneris, quanta venttz minus. n 25 

But our poet who was not ignorant of these difficulties, 
has made use 3 of all advantages ; as he who designs 
a large leap takes his rise from the highest ground. 
'One of these advantages is that which Corneille n has 
laid down as the greatest which can arrive to any 30 

1 so C j extream, A and B. 2 Seo-ts, A. 

3 had prevailed himself, A. 


poem, and which he himself could never compass 
above thrice in all his plays ; viz. the making choice 
of some signal and long-expected day, whereon the 
action of the play is to depend. This day was that 
5 designed by Dauphine for the settling of his uncle's 
estate upon him ; which to compass, he contrives to 
marry him. That the marriage had been plotted by 
him long beforehand, is made evident by what he 
tells True-wit in the second act, that in one moment 

10 he had destroyed what he had been raising many 

1 There is another artifice of the poet, which I 
cannot here omit, because by the frequent practice 
of it in his comedies he has left it to us almost as a 

15 rule ; that is, when he has any character or humour 
wherein he would shew a coup de Maistre, of his 
highest skill, he recommends it to your observation 
by a pleasant description of it before the person first 
appears. Thus, in Bartholomew- Fair ' n he gives you 

20 the pictures of Numps and Cokes, and in this those 
of Daw, Lafoole, Morose, and the Collegiate Ladies ; 
all which you hear described before you see them. 
So that before they come upon the stage, you have 
a longing expectation of them, which prepares you 

25 to receive them favourably ; and when they are there, 
even from their first appearance you are so far ac 
quainted with them, that nothing of their humour is 
lost to you. 

' I will observe yet one thing further of this admir- 

30 able plot ; the business of it rises in every act. The 
second is greater than the first ; the third than the 
second ; and so forward to the fifth. There too you 


see, till the very last scene, new difficulties arising to v 
obstruct the action of the play; and when the audience / 
is brought into despair that the business can naturally / 
be effected, then, and not before, the discovery is 
made. But that the poet might entertain you with 5 
more variety all this while, he reserves some- new 
characters to shew you, which he opens not till the 
second and third act ; in the second Morose, Daw, 
the Barber, and Otter; in the third the Collegiate 
Ladies : all which he moves afterwards in by- walks, J0 
or under-plots, as diversions to the main design, lest 
it should grow tedious, though they are still naturally 
joined with it, and somewhere or other subservient to 
it. Thus, like a skilful chess-player 1 , by little and 
little he draws out his men, and makes his pawns 15 
of use to his greater persons. 

'If this comedy n and some others of his, were 
translated into French prose, (which would now be 
no wonder to them, since Moliere has lately given 
them plays out of verse, which have not displeased ao 
them,) I believe the controversy would soon be de 
cided betwixt the two nations, even making them 
the judges. But we need not call our heroes 2 to 
our aid. Be it spoken to the honour of the English, 
our nation can never want in any age such who are 25 
able to dispute the empire of wit with any people 
in the universe. And though the fury of a civil 
war, and power for twenty years together aban- 
'doned to a barbarous race of men, enemies of all 
good learning, had buried the muses under the 30 

1 so C ; Chest-player, A and B. 
9 so C ; Hero's, A and B- 

ruins of monarchy; yet, with the restoration of 
our happiness, we see revived poesy lifting up its 
head, and already shaking off the rubbish which 
lay so heavy on it. We have seen since his majesty's 
5 return, many dramatick poems which yield not to 
those of any foreign nation, and which deserve all 
laurels but the English. I will set aside flattery and 
envy: it cannot be denied but we have had some 
little blemish either in the plot or writing of all those 
10 plays which have been made within these seven years; 
(and perhaps there is no nation in the world so quick 
to discern them, or so difficult to pardon them, as 
ours :) yet if we can persuade ourselves to use the 
candour of that poet, who, though the most severe 
5 of criticks, has left us this caution by which to 
moderate our censures 

ubi plura nitent in carmine, non ego pauds 

Offendar maculis ; n 

if, in consideration of their many and great beauties, 
ao we can wink at some slight and little imperfections, 
if we, I say, can be thus equal to ourselves, I ask no 
favour from the French. And if I do not venture 
upon any particular judgment of our late plays, 'tis 
out of the consideration which an ancient writer gives 
25 me: vivorum, utmagna admiratio, ita censura difficilis: 
betwixt the extremes of admiration and malice, 'tis 
hard to judge uprightly of the living. Only I think 
it may be permitted me to say, that as it is no lessen 
ing to us to yield to some plays, and those not many, 
30 of our own nation in the last age, so can it be no ad 
dition to pronounce of our present poets, that they 


have far surpassed all the ancients, and the modern 
writers of other countries V 

This was 2 the substance of what was then spoke 
on that occasion ; and Lisideius, I think, was going 
to reply, when he was prevented thus by Crites : ' I 5 
am confident/ said he, ' that the most material things 
that can be said have been already urged on either 
side ; if they have not, I must beg of Lisideius that 
he will defer his answer till another time : for I con 
fess I have a joint quarrel to you both, because you 10 
have concluded, without any reason given for it, that 
rhyme is proper for the stage. I will not dispute how 
ancient it hath been among us to write this way ; per 
haps our ancestors knew no better till Shakspeare's 
time. I will grant it was not altogether left by him, 15 
and that Fletcher and Ben Johnson used it frequently 
in their Pastorals, and sometimes in other plays. 
Farther, I will not argue whether we received it 
originally from our own countrymen, or from the 
French ; for that is an inquiry of as little benefit, 20 
as theirs who, in the midst of the late plague 3 , were 
not so solicitous to provide against it, as to know 
whether we had it from the malignity of our own 
air, or by transportation from Holland. I have 
therefore only to affirm, that it is not allowable in 25 
serious plays ; for comedies, I find you already con 
cluding with me. To prove this, I might satisfy my 
self to tell you, how much in vain it is for you to 
' strive against the stream of the people's inclination ; 
the greatest part of which are prepossessed so much 3 

1 so C ; Countreys, A and B. 2 This, my Lord, was, A. 

8 the great plague, A. 


with those excellent plays of Shakspeare, Fletcher, 
and Ben Johnson, which have been written out of 
rhyme, that except you could bring them such as 
were written better in it, and those too by persons 
5 of equal reputation with them, it will be impossible 
for you to gain your cause with them, who will still 
be judges. This it is to which, in fine, all your 
reasons must submit. The unanimous consent of an 
audience is so powerful, that even Julius Caesar, (as 

10 Macrobius reports of him,) when he was perpetual 
dictator, was not able to balance it on the other side ; 
but when Laberius, a Roman Knight, at his request 
contended in the Mime with another poet n , he was 
forced to cry out, Etiamfavente me victus es, Laberi 1 . 

15 But I will not on this occasion take the advantage of 
the greater number, but only urge such reasons against 
rhyme, as I find in the writings of those who have ar 
gued for the other way. First then, I am of opinion, 
that rhyme is unnatural in a play, because dialogue 

ao there is presented as the effect of sudden thought : 
for a play is the imitation of nature ; and since no 
man, without premeditation speaks in rhyme, neither 
ought he to do it on the stage. This hinders not but 
the fancy may be there elevated to an higher" pitch of 

25 thought than it is in ordinary discourse ; for there is 
a probability that men of excellent and quick parts 
may speak noble things extempore : but those thoughts 
are never fettered with the numbers or sound of verse 
without study, and therefore it cannot be but unnatural 

30 to present the most free way of speaking in that which 
is the most constrained. For this reason, says 

1 Liberi, A. 


totle n , 'tis best to write tragedy in that kind of verse 
Which is the least such, or which is nearest prose : 
and this amongst the ancients was the Iambick ; and 
with us is blank verse, or the measure of verse kept 
exactly without rhyme. These numbers therefore are 5 
fittest for a play ; the others for a paper of verses, or 
a poem ; blank verse being as much below them, as 
rhyme is improper for the drama. And if it be ob 
jected that neither are blank verse's made extempore, 
yet, as nearest nature, they are still to be preferred. 10 
But there are two particular exceptions, which many 
besides myself have had to verse ; by which it will 
appear yet more plainly how improper it is in plays. 
And the first of them is grounded on that very reason 
for which some have commended rhyme ; they say, 15 
the quickness of repartees in argumentative scenes 
receives an ornament from verse. Now what is more 
unreasonable than to imagine that a man should not 
only light upon the wit \ but the rhyme too, upon the 
sudden? This nicking n of him who spoke before both 20 
in sound and measure, is so great an happiness, that 
you must at least suppose the persons of your play to 
be born poets : Arcades omnes, et cantare pares, et re- 
spondereparati^: they must have arrived to the degree 
of quicquid conabar dicere^\ to make verses almost 25 
whether they will or no. If they are any thing below 
this, it will look rather like the design of two, than 
the answer of one : it will appear that your actors 
hold intelligence together; that they perform their 
tricks like fortune-tellers, by confederacy. The hand 30 
of art will be too visible in it, against that maxim 

1 so A ; not only imagine the Wit, B. 


of all professions Ars est celare artem ; that itjs the 
greatest perfection of art to keep itself undiscovered. 
Nor will it serve you to object, that however you 
manage it, 'tis still known to be a play ; and, conse- 
5 quently, the dialogue of two persons understood to 
be the labour of one poet. For a play is still an 
, imitation of nature; we know we are to be deceived, 
and we desire to be so ; but no man ever was deceived 
but with a probability of truth ; for who will suffer a 
gross lie to be fastened on him ? Thus we sufficiently 
understand, that the scenes which represent cities and 
countries to us are not really such, but only painted 
on boards and canvas; but shall that excuse the ill 
painture n or designment n of them ? Nay, rather ought 

15 they not to be laboured with so much the more dili 
gence and exactness, to help the imagination ? since 
the mind of man does naturally tend to * truth ; and 
therefore the nearer any thing comes to the imitation 
of it, the more it pleases. 

20 ' Thus, you see, your rhyme is uncapable of ex 
pressing the greatest thoughts naturally, and the 
lowest it cannot with any grace : for what is more 
unbefitting the majesty of verse, than to call a 
servant, or bid a door be shut in rhyme? and yet 

25 you are often forced on this miserable necessity 2 . But 
verse, you say, circumscribes a quick and. luxuriant 
fancy, which would extend itself too far on every 
subject, did not the labour which is required to well- 
turned and polished rhyme, set bounds to it. Yet 

30 this argument, if granted, would only prove that we 

1 tend to and seek after, A. 

2 this nils. nee. you are forc'd upon, A. 


may write better in verse, but not more naturally. 
Neither is it able to evince that; for he who wants 
judgment to confine his fancy in blank verse, may 
want it as much in rhyme : and he who has it will 
avoid errors in both kinds. Latin verse was as great 5 
a confinement to the imagination of those poets, as 
rhyme to ours; and yet you find Ovid saying too 
much on every subject. Nescivit (says Seneca) quod 
bene cessit relinquere n : of which he gives you one 
famous instance in his description of the deluge : 10 

Omnia pontus erat, deerant quoqtie litora ponto D . 
Now all was sea, nor had that sea a shore. 

Thus Ovid's fancy was not limited by verse, and 
Virgil needed not verse to have bounded his. 

' In our own language we see Ben Johnson con- 15 
fining himself to what ought to be said, even in the 
liberty of blank verse ; and yet Corneille, the most . 
judicious of the French poets, is still varying the 
same sense an hundred ways, and dwelling eternally 
on the same subject, though confined by rhyme. 20 
Some other exceptions I have to verse; but since 
these * I have named are for the most part already 
publick, I conceive it reasonable they should first be 

1 It concerns me less than any/ said Neander, 25 
(seeing he had ended,) 'to reply to this discourse; 
because when I should have proved that verse may 
be natural in plays, yet I should always be ready to 
confess, that those which I have written in this kind n 
come short of that perfection which is required. Yet 30 

1 but being these, A. 
G 2 


since you are pleased I should undertake this pro 
vince, I will do it, though with all imaginable respect 
and deference, both to that person n from whom you 
have borrowed your strongest arguments, and to 

5 whose judgment, when I have said all, I finally 
submit. But before I proceed to answer your ob 
jections, I must first remember you, that I exclude 
all comedy from my defence ; and next that I deny 
not but blank verse may be also used ; and content 

10 myself only to assert, that in serious plays, where the 
subject and characters are great, and the plot un 
mixed with mirth, which might allay or divert these 
concernments which are produced, rhyme is there as 
natural and more effectual than blank verse. 

15 'And now having laid down this as a foundation, 
to begin with Crites, I must crave leave to tell 
him, that some of his arguments against rhyme reach 
no farther than, from the faults or defects of ill rhyme, 
to conclude against the use of it in general. May not 

20 I conclude against blank verse by the same reason ? 
If the words of some poets who write in it, are-either 
ill chosen, or ill placed, which makes not only rhyme, 
but all kind of verse in any language unnatural, shall 
I, for their vicious affectation, condemn those excellent 

25 lines of Fletcher, which are written in that kind? Is 
there any thing in rhyme more constrained than this 
line in blank verse? / heaven invoke, and strong 
resistance make ; where you see both the clauses are 
placed unnaturally, that is, contrary to the common 

30 way of speaking, and that without the excuse of a 
rhyme to cause it : yet you would think me very 
ridiculous, if I should accuse the stubbornness of 


blank verse for this, and not rather the stiffness of 
the poet. Therefore, Crites, you must either prove 
that words, though well chosen, and duly placed, yet 
render not rhyme natural in itself; or that, however 
natural and easy the rhyme may be, yet it is not 5 
proper for a play. If you insist on the former part, I 
would ask you, what other conditions are required to 
make rhyme natural in itself, besides an election of 
apt words, and a right disposition l of them ? For 
the due choice of your words expresses your sense 10 
naturally, and the due placing them adapts the rhyme 
to it. If you object that one verse may be made for 
the sake of another, though both the words and rhyme 
be apt, I answer, it cannot possibly so fall out ; for 
either there is a dependance of sense betwixt the first *5 
line and the second, or there is none : if there be 
that connection, then in the natural position of the 
words the latter line must of necessity flow from the 
former ; if there be no dependance, yet still the due 
ordering of words makes the last line as natural in 20 
itself as the other : so that the necessity of a rhyme 
never forces any but bad or lazy writers to say what 
they would not otherwise. Tis true, there is both 
care and art required to write in verse. A good poet 
never establishes 2 the first line, till he has sought out 25 
such a rhyme as may fit the sense, already prepared 
to heighten the second : many times the close of the 
sense falls into the middle of the next verse, or farther 
off, and he may often prevail himself n of the same 
advantages in English which Virgil had in Latin, he 30 
may break off in the hemystich, and begin another 

1 disposing, A. a concludes upon, A. 


line. Indeed, the not observing these two last things, 
makes plays which are writ in verse, so tedious : for 
though, most commonly, the sense is to be confined 
to the couplet, yet nothing that does perpetuo tenore 
sfluere, run in the same channel, can please always. 
J Tis like the murmuring of a stream, which not 
varying in the fall, causes at first attention, at last 
drowsiness. Variety of cadences -is the best rule; 
the greatest help to the actors, and refreshment to 
10 the audience. 

' If then verse may be made natural in itself, how 
becomes it unnatural in 1 a play? You say the stage 
is the representation of nature, and no man in ordi 
nary conversation speaks in rhyme. But you foresaw 
15 when you said this, that it might be answered neither 
does any man speak in blank verse, or in measure 
without rhyme. Therefore you concluded, that which 
is nearest nature is still to be preferred. But you 
took no notice that rhyme might be made as natural 
20 as blank verse, by the well placing of the words, &c. 
All the difference between them, when they are both 
correct, is, the sound in one, which the other wants ; 
and if so, the sweetness of it, and all the advantage 
resulting from it, which are handled in the Preface to 
2 5 The Rival Ladies, will yet stand good. As. for that 
place of Aristotle, where he says, plays should be 
writ in that kind of verse which is nearest prose, it 
makes little for you ; blank verse being properly but 
measured prose. Now measure alone, in any modern 
30 language, does not constitute verse ; those of the 
ancients in Greek and Latin consisted in quantity of 
* improper to, A. 


words, and a determinate number of feet. But when, 
by the inundation of the Goths and Vandals into 
Italy, new languages were introduced 1 , and barba 
rously mingled with the Latin, of which the Italian, 
Spanish, French, and ours, (made out of them and 5 
the Teutonick,) are dialects, a new way of poesy was 
practised; new, I say, in those countries, for in all 
probability it was that of the conquerors in their own 
nations : at least we are able to prove, that the eastern 
people have used it from all antiquity 2 ". This new 10 
way consisted in measure or number of feet, and 
rhyme ; the sweetness of rhyme, and observation of 
accent, supplying the place of quantity in words, 
which could neither exactly be observed by those 
barbarians, who knew not the rules of it, neither was 15 
it suitable to their tongues, as it had been to the 
Greek and Latin. No man is tied in modern poesy 
to observe any farther rule in the feet ofHis verse, 
but that they be dissyllables; whether Spondee, 
Trochee, or lambick, it matters not ; only he is 20 
obliged to rhyme: neither do the Spanish, French, 
Italian, or Germans, acknowledge at all, or very rarely, 
any such kind of poesy as blank verse amongst them. 
Therefore, at most 'tis but a poetick prose, a sermo 
pedestris ; and a*s such, most fit for comedies, where *5 
I acknowledge rhyme to be improper. Farther; as 
to that quotation of Aristotle, our couplet verses may 
be rendered as near prose as blank' verse itself, by 
using those advantages I lately named, as breaks in 
an hemistich, or running the sense into another line, 30 

1 brought in, A. 

8 A om. at least . . . antiquity, and the note. 


thereby making art and order appear as loose and free 
as nature : or not tying ourselves to couplets strictly, 
we may use the benefitjof tJ^JPimiaTick way, practised 
in The Siege of Rhodes 11 ] where the numbers vary, and 

5 the rhyme is disposed carelessly, and far from often 
chyming. Neither is that' other advantage of the 
ancients to be despised, of changing the kind of verse 
when they please, with the change of the scene, or 
some new entrance ; for they confine not themselves 

10 always to iambicks, but extend their liberty to all 
lyrick numbers, and sometimes even to hexameter n . 
But I need not go so far to prove that rhyme, as it 
succeeds to all other offices of Greek and Latin verse, 
so especially to this of plays, since the custom of 

15 nations 1 at this day confirms it; the French 2 , Italian, 11 
and Spanish tragedies are generally writ in it ; and 
sure the universal consent of the most civilized parts 
of the world, ought in this, as it doth in other customs, 
to 3 include the rest. 

30 ' But perhaps you may tell me, I have proposed 
such a way to make rhyme natural, and consequently 
proper to plays, as is unpracticable ; and that I shall 
scarce find six or eight lines together in any play, 
where the words are so placed and chosen as is re- 

25 quired to make it natural. I answer, no poet need 
constrain himself at all times to it. It is enough he 
makes it his general rule ; for I deny not but some 
times there may be a greatness in placing the words 
otherwise; and sometimes they may sound better; 

30 sometimes also the variety itself is excuse enough. 
But if, for the most part, the words be placed as they 
1 all Nations, A. 2 all the French, &c., A. 3 A om. to. 


are in the negligence of prose, it is sufficient to de 
nominate the way practicable ; for we esteem that to 
be such, which in the trial oftner succeeds than misses. 
And thus far you may find the practice made good 
in many plays : where you do not, remember still, that 5 
if you cannot find six natural rhymes together, it 
will be as hard for you to produce as many lines in 
blank verse, even among the greatest of our poets, 
against which I cannot make some reasonable ex 
ception. 10 

'And this, Sir, calls to my remembrance the be 
ginning of your discourse, where you told us we 
should never find the audience favourable to this 
kind of writing, till we could produce as good plays 
in rhyme, a*s Ben Johnson, Fletcher, and Shakspeare, 15 
had writ out of it. But it is to raise envy to the 
living, to compare them with the dead. They are 
honoured, and almost adored by us, as they deserve ; 
neither do I know any so presumptuous of themselves 
as to contend with them. Yet give me leave to say 20 
thus much, without injury to their ashs; that not 
only we shall never equal them, but they could never 
equal themselves, were they to rise and write again. 
We acknowledge them our fathers in wit; but they 
have ruined their estates themselves, before they came 25 
to their children's hands. There is scarce an humour, 
a character, or any kind of plot, which they have not 
used l . All conies sullied or wasted to us : and were 
they to entertain this age, they could not now 2 make 
so plenteous treatments out of such decayed fortunes. 30 
This therefore will be a good argument to us, either 

1 blown upon, A- 2 A om. 


not to write at all, or to attempt some other way. 
There is no bays to be expected in their walks : ten- 
tanda via est, qua me quoque possum tollere humo n . 
This way. of writing in verse they have only left 

5 free to us ; our age is arrived to a perfectlojOn it, 
which they never knew ; and which (if we may guess 
by what of theirs we have seen in verse, as The Faith 
ful Shepherdess, and Sad Shepherd) 'tis probable they 
never could have reached. For the genius of every 

:o age is different ; and though ours excel in this,~T"deny 
not but to imitate nature in that perfection which they 
did in prose, is a greater commendation than to write 
in verse exactly. As for what you have added that 
the people are not generally inclined to like this way, 

15 if it were true, it would be no wonder, that betwixt 
the shaking off an old habit, and the introducing of a 
new, there should be difficulty. Do we not see them 
stick to Hopkins' and Sternhold's psalms, and forsake 
those of David, I mean Sandys his translation of 

20 them ? If by the people you understand the multi 
tude, the ol TroXXoi, 'tis no matter what they think ; they 
are sometimes in the right, sometimes in the wrong : 
their judgment is a mere lottery. Est ubi plebs recte 
putat, est ubi peccat n . Horace says it of the vulgar, 

25 judging poesy. But if you mean the mixed audience 
of the populace and the noblesse, I dare confidently 
affirm that a great part of the latter sort are already 
favourable to verse ; and that no serious plays written 
since the king's return have been more kindly received 

30 by them, than The Siege of Rhodes, the Mustapha u , 
The Indian Queen, and Indian Emperor. 

1 But I come now to the inference of your first 


argument. You said that 1 the dialogue of plays is 
presented as the effect of sudden thought, but no man 
speaks suddenly, or extempore, in rhyme ; and you in 
ferred from thence, that rhyme, which you acknowledge 
to be proper to epick poesy, cannot equally be proper g 
to dramatick, unless we could suppose all men born 
so much more than poets, that verses should be made 
in them, not by them. 

t It has been formerly urged by you, and confessed 
by me, that since no man spoke any kind of verse 10 
extempore, that which was nearest nature was to be 
preferred. I answer you, therefore, by distinguishing 
betwixt what is nearest to the nature of comedy, which 
is the imitation of common persons and ordinary 
speaking, and what is nearest the nature of a serious 15 
play : this last is indeed the representation of nature, 
but 'tis nature wrought up to an higher pitch. The 
plot, the characters, the wit, the passions, the de 
scriptions, are all exalted above the level of common 
converse, as high as the imagination of the poet can 20 
carry them, with proportion to verisimility. Tragedy, 
we know, is wont to image to us the minds and for 
tunes of noble persons, and to portray these exactly ; 
heroick rhyme is nearest nature, as being the noblest 
kind of modern verse. 3 5 

Indignatur enim privatis et prope socco 
, Dignis car minibus narrari coena Thyestce* 

'says Horace : and in another place, 

Effutire leves indigna tragccdia versus n . 

Blank verse is acknowledged to be too low for a 30 
1 A om. 


poem, nay more, for a paper of verses ; but if too low 
for an ordinary sonnet", how much more for tragedy, 
which is by Aristotle, in the dispute betwixt the epick 
poesy and the dramatick, for many reasons he there 
5 alledges, ranked above it ? n 

'But setting this defence aside, your argument is 
almost as strong against the use of rhyme in poems 
as in plays ; for the epick way is every where inter 
laced with dialogue, or discoursive scenes; and 

10 therefore you must either grant rhyme to be im 
proper there, which is contrary to your assertion, or 
admit it into plays by the same title which you have 
given it to poems. For though tragedy be justly 
preferred above the other, yet there is a great affinity 

15 between them, as may easily be discovered in that 
definition of a play which Lisideius gave us. The 
genus of them is the same, a just and lively image 
of human nature, in its actions, passions, and tra 
verses of fortune : so is the end, namely, for the 

20 delight and benefit of mankind. The characters and 
persons are still the same, viz. the greatest of both 
sorts ; only the manner of acquainting us with those 
actions, passions, and fortunes, is different. Tragedy 
performs it viva voce, or by action, in dialogue ; 

25 wherein it excels the epick poem, which does it 
chiefly by narration, and therefore is not so lively 
an image of human nature. However, the agree 
ment betwixt them is such, that if rhyme be proper 
for one, it must be for the other. Verse, 'tis true, 

30 is not the effect of sudden thought ; but this hinders 
not that sudden thought may be represented in verse, 
since those thoughts are such as must be higher 


than nature can raise them without premeditation, 
especially to a continuance of them, even out of verse ; 
and consequently you cannot imagine them to have 
been sudden either in the poet or in the actors. A 
play, as I have said, to be like nature, is to be set 5 
above it; as statues which are placed on high are 
made greater than the life, that they may descend to 
the sight in their just proportion. 

^Perhaps I have insisted too long on this objection; 
but the clearing of it will make my stay shorter on 10 
the rest. You tell us, Crites, that rhyme appears 
most unnatural in repartees7 or short replies : when 
he who answers, (it being presumed he knew not 
what the other would say, yet) makes up that part 
of the verse which was left incomplete, and supplies 15 
both the sound and measure of it. This, you say, 
looks rather like the confederacy of two, than the 
answer of one. 

' This, I confess, is an objection which is in every 
man's * mouth, who loves not rhyme : but suppose, 20 
I beseech you, the repartee were made only in blank 
verse, might not part of the same argument be turned 
against you? for the measure is as often supplied 
there, asJJLijjrijrhyjne ; the latter half of the hemi 
stich as commonly made up, or a second line sub- 25 
joined as a reply to the former; which any one leaf 
in Johnson's plays will sufficiently clear to you. You 
will often find in the Greek tragedians, and in 
Seneca, that when a scene grows up into the warmth 
of repartees, which is the close fighting of it, the 30 
latter part of the trimeter is supplied by him who 

1 ones, A. 


answers ; and yet it was never observed as a fault: 
in them by any of the ancient or modern criticks. 
"the case is the same in our verse, as it was in 
theirs ; rhyme to us being in lieu of quantity to 

5 them. But if no latitude is to be allowed a poet, 
you take from him not only his licence of quidlibet, 
audendi*, but you tie him up in a straiter compass 
than you would a philosopher. This is indeed 
Musas colere severiores n . You would have him follow 

10 nature, but he must follow her on foot : you have dis 
mounted him from his Pegasus. But you tell us, this 
supplying the last half of a verse, or adjoining a whole 
second to the former, looks more like the design of 
two, than the answer of one. Suppose we acknow- 

15 ledge it : how comes this confederacy to be more 
displeasing to you, than in a dance which is well 
contrived? You see there the united design of 
many persons to make up one figure : after they 
have separated themselves in many petty divisions, 

20 they rejoin one by one into a gross : the confederacy 
is plain amongst them, for chance could never pro 
duce any thing so beautiful ; and yet there is nothing 
in it, that shocks your sight. I acknowledge the hand 
of art appears in repartee, as of necessity it must in 

25 all kind of verse. But there is also the quick and 
poynant brevity of it (which is an high imitation of 
nature in those sudden gusts of passion) to mingle 
with it; and this, joined with the cadency and sweet 
ness of the rhyme, leaves nothing in the soul of the 

30 hearer to desire. J Tis an art which appears ; but it 
appears only like the shadowings of painture, which 
being to cause the rounding of it, cannot be absent;. 


but while that is considered, they are lost : so while 
we attend to the other beauties of the matter, the care 
and labour of the rhyme is carried from us, or at least 
drowned in its own sweetness, as bees are sometimes 
buried in their honey. When a poet has found the 5 
repartee, the last perfection he can add to it, is to put 
it into verse. However good the thought may be, 
however apt the words in which 'tis couched, yet he 
finds himself at a little unrest, while rhyme is want 
ing : he cannot leave it till that comes naturally, and 10 
then is at ease, and sits dov/n contented. 

' From replies, which are the most elevated thoughts 
of verse, you pass to those which are most mean, and 
which a are common with the lowest of houshold con 
versation. In these, you say, the majesty of verse 15 
suffers. You instance in the calling of a servant, or 
commanding a door to be shut, in rhyme. This, 
Crites, is a good observation of your's, but no argu 
ment : for it proves no more but that such thoughts 
should be waved, as often as may be, by the address 20 
of the poet. But suppose they are necessary in the 
places where he uses them, yet there is no need to 
put them into rhyme. He may place them in the 
beginning of a verse, and break it off, as unfit, when 
so debased, for any other use ; or granting the worst, 25 
that they require more room than the hemistich 
will allow, yet still there is a choice to be made of 
the best words, and least vulgar, (provided they be 
apt,) to express such thoughts. Many have blamed 
rhyme in general, for this fault, when the poet with 30 
a little care might have redressed it. But they do it 
1 to the most mean ones, those which, A. 


with no more justice, than if English poesy should 
be made ridiculous for the sake of the Water-poet's n 
rhymes. Our language is noble, full, and significant ; 
and I know not why he who is master of it may not 

5 clothe ordinary things in it as decently as the Latin, 
if he use the same diligence in his choice of words : 
delectus verborum origo est eloquentice^. It was the 
saying of Julius Caesar, one so curious in his, that 
none of them can be changed but for a worse. One 

10 would think, unlock the door, was a thing as vulgar as 
could be spoken; and yet Seneca could make it sound 
high and lofty in his Latin : 

Reserate clusos regii posies laris^. 
Set wide the palace gates. 

15 'But I turn from this exception, both because it 
happens not above twice or thrice in any play that 
those vulgar thoughts are used ; and then too, (were 
there no other apology to be made, yet,) the necessity 
of them, which is alike in all kind of writing, may 

20 excuse' them. For if they are little and mean in 
rhyme, they are of consequence such in blank verse \ 
Besides that the great eagerness and precipitation 
with which they are spoken, makes us rather mind 
the substance than the dress ; that for which they are 

25 spoken, rather than what is spoke. For they are 
always the effect of some hasty concernment, and 
something of consequence depends on them. 

' Thus, Crites, I have endeavoured to answer your 
objections; it remains only that I should vindicate 

30 an argument for verse, which you have gone about to 

1 A cm. For if they . . . blank verse. 


overthrow. It had formerly been said", that the easi 
ness of blank verse renders the poet too luxuriant, 
but that the labour of rhyme bounds and circumscribes 
an over- fruitful fancy; the sense 1 there being com 
monly confined to the couplet, and the words so 5 
ordered that the rhyme naturally follows them, not 
they the rhyme. To this you answered, that it was 
no argument to the question in hand ; for the dispute 
was not which way a man may write best, but which 
is most proper for the subject on which he writes. 10 

' First, give me leave, Sir, to remember you, that 
the argument against which you raised this objection, 
was only secondary : it was built on this hypothesis, 
that to write in verse was proper for serious plays. 
Which supposition being granted, (as it was briefly 15 
made out in that discourse, by shewing how verse 
might be made natural,) it asserted, that this way of 
writing was an help to the poet's judgment, by put 
ting bounds to a wild overflowing fancy. I think, 
therefore, it will not be hard for me to make good 20 
what it was to prove on that supposition 2 . But you 
add, that were this let pass, yet he who wants judg 
ment in the liberty of his fancy, may as well shew 
the defect of it when he is confined to verse ; for he 
who has judgment will avoid errors, and he who has 25 
it not, will commit them in all kinds of writing. 

This argument, as you have taken it from a most 
acute person", so I confess it carries much weight in 
it : but by using the word judgment here indefinitely, 
you seem to have put a fallacy upon us. I grant, he 30 
who has judgment, that is, so profound, so strong, 

1 so A ; scene, B and C. 2 A om. on that supposition. 



or rather 1 so infallible a judgment, that he needs no 
helps to keep it always poised and upright, will com 
mit no faults either in rhyme or out of it. And on 
the other extreme, he who has a judgment so weak 

5 and crazed that no helps can correct or amend it, 
shall write scurvily out of rhyme, and worse in it. 
But the first of these judgments is no where to be 
found, and the latter is not fit to write at all. To 
speak therefore of judgment as it is in the best poets; 

10 they who have the greatest proportion of it, want 
other helps than from it, within. As for example, 
you would be loth to say, that he who is 2 endued 
with a sound judgment has 3 no need of history, 
geography, or moral philosophy, to write correctly. 

15 Judgment is indeed the ma^^-^^kmanjn a play ; 
but he requires many subordinate hands, many tools 
to his assistance. And verse I affirm to be one of 
these ; 'tis a rule and line by which he keeps his 
building compact and even, which otherwise lawless 

20 imagination would raise either irregularly or loosely; 
at least, if the poet commits errors with this help, he 
would make greater and more without it : 'tis, in 
short, a slow and painful, but the surest kind of 
working. Ovid, whom you accuse for luxuriancy 

25 in verse, had perhaps been farther guilty of it, had 
he writ in prose. And for your instance of Ben 
Johnson, who, you say, writ exactly without the 
help of rhyme ; you are to remember, 'tis only an 
aid to a luxuriant fancy, which his was not : as he 

30 did not want imagination, so none ever said he 
had much to spare. Neither was verse then re* 
1 A om. or rather. 2 was, A. 3 had, A. 


fined so much, to be an help to that age, as it is to 
ours. Thus then the segnnd thoughts fcn' n C usually 
the best, as receiving the maturest digestion from 
Judgment,' "arid Ihe last and most mature product of 
those thoughts being Cartful and laboured verse, it 5 
may well be inferred, that verse is a great help to 
a luxuriant fancy; and this is what that argument 
which you opposed was to evince.' 

Neander was pursuing this discourse so eagerly, 
that Eugenius had called to him twice or thrice, ere 10 
he took notice that the barge stood still, and that they 
were at the foot of Somerset-stairs, where they had 
appointed it to land. The company were all sorry to 
separate so soon, though a great part, of the evening 
was already spent ; and stood a- while looking back on 15 
the water, upon which the moon-beams played *, and 
made it appear like floating quicksilver : at last they 
went up through a crowd of French people, who were 
merrily dancing in the open air, and nothing con 
cerned for the noise of guns which had alarmed the 20 
town that afternoon. Walking thence together to the 
Piazze n , they parted there ; Eugenius and Lisideius 
to some pleasant appointment they had made, and 
Crites and Neander to their several lodgings. 

1 which the moon beams played upon, A. 

H 2 




THE former edition of The Indian Emperor being 
full of faults, which had escaped the printer, I have 
been willing to overlook this second with more care ; 
and though I could not allow myself so much time as 
was necessary, yet, by that little I have done, the press 
is freed from some gross errors which it had to answer 

1 The text of the ' Defence ' is reprinted from the original edition 
of 1668 (the only one published in Dryden's life-time), a copy of 
which is in the British Museum ; it is prefixed as a sort of Introduc 
tion to the second edition of Dryden's Indian Emperor. 

*Our author married, probably about the year 1664, Lady 
Elizabeth Howard, sister of Sir Robert Howard knt., and daughter 
of Thomas, the first Earl of Berkshire [ancestor of the present Earl 
of Suffolk]. In 1660 he had addressed some complimentary verses 
to Sir Robert, which were prefixed to his poems, published in 8vo. 
in that year. In 1666 they appear to have been on good terms ; 
Dryden having then addressed to him an encomiastick Epistle in 
prose, which is dated from Charleton, in Wiltshire (the seat of the 
Earl of Berkshire), and was prefixed to his Annus Mirabilis, pub 
lished in 8vo. in 1667, by Sir Robert Howard, who revised the 
sheets at the press for the author, who was then in the country ; and 
in the Epistle he describes him as one whom he knew not to be of 
the number of those, qui carpere amicos suos judicium vocant. In 
the Essay on Dramatick Poesy, as we have already seen, he speaks 
of Sir Robert Howard with great respect. That gentleman, how- 


for before. As for the more material faults of writing, 
which are properly mine, though I see many of them, 
I want leisure to amend them. 'Tis enough for those 
who make one poem the business of their lives, to 
leave that correct : yet, excepting Virgil, I never met 5 
with any which was so in any language. 

But while I was thus employed about this impres 
sion, there came to my hands a new printed play, 
called, The Great Favourite, or The Duke of Lerma ; 
the author of which, a noble and most ingenious 10 
person, has done me the favour to make some ob 
servations and animadversions upon my Dramalique 
Essay. I must confess he might have better consulted 
his reputation, than by matching himself with so weak 
an adversary. But if his honour be diminished in the 15 
choice of his antagonist, it is sufficiently recompensed 
in the. election of his cause : which being the weaker, 
in all appearance, as combating the received opinions 
of the best ancient and modern authors, will add to 
his glory, if he overcome, and to the opinion of his ao 

ever, having in 1668 published [in the preface to his tragedy, The 
Duke of Lerma] reflections on the Essay, our author retorted in the 
following observations, which are found prefixed to the second 
edition of The Indian Emperor, published in the same year. In 
many copies, however, of that edition, they are wanting ; nor were 
they reprinted in any other edition of that play which appeared in 
the life-time of the author : so that it should seem he was induced 
by good nature, or the interposition of friends, to suppress this witty 
and severe replication. One of the lampoons of the time gives a 
more invidious turn to this suppression, and insinuates that he was 
compelled to retract. They lived afterwards probably in good 
correspondence together; at least, it appears from an original 
letter of our author now before me, that towards the close of his 
life they were on friendly terms. (Malone.) 


generosity, if he be vanquished : since he ingages at. 
so great odds, and, so like a cavalier, undertakes the 
protection of the weaker party. I have only to fear 
on my own behalf, that so good a cause as mine may 
5 not suffer by my ill management, or weak defence ; 
yet I cannot in honour but take the glove, when 'tis 
offered me : though I am only a champion by suc 
cession ; and no more able to defend the right of 
Aristotle and Horace, than an infant Dimock n to 

10 maintain the title of a King. 

For my own concernment in the controversie, it is 
so small, that I can easily be contented to be driven 
from a few notions of Dramatique Poesie ; especially 
by one, who has the reputation of understanding all 

15 things : and I might justly make that excuse for my 
yielding to him, which the Philosopher " made to the 
Emperor, why should I offer to contend with him, who 
is master of more than twenty legions of arts and 
sciences ? But I am forced to fight, and therefore it 

20 will be no shame to be overcome. 

Yet I am so much his servant, as not to meddle 
with any thing which does not concern me in his 
Preface ; therefore, I leave the good sense and other 
excellencies of the first twenty lines to be considered 

2 5 by the critiques. As for the play of The Duke of 
Lerma, having so much altered and beautified it, as 
he has done, it can justly belong to none but him. 
Indeed, they must be extream ignorant as well as 
envious, who would rob him of that honour; for you see 

30 him putting in his claim to it, even in the first two lines: 

Repulse upon repulse, like waves thrown back, 
That slide to hang upon obdurate rocks. 


After this, let detraction do its worst ; for if this be 
not his, it deserves to be. For my part, I declare for 
distributive justice ; and from this and what follows, 
he certainly deserves those advantages which he ac 
knowledges to have received from the opinion of sober 5 

In the next place, I must beg leave to observe his 
great address in courting the reader to his party. 
For intending to assault all poets, both ancient and 
modern, he discovers not his whole design at once, 10 
but seems only to aim at me, and attacques me on my 
weakest side, my defence of verse. 

To begin with me, he gives me the compellation 
of The Author of a Dramatique Essay, which is a little 
discourse in dialogue, for the most part borrowed 15 
from the observations of others : therefore, that I 
may not be wanting to him in civility, I return his 
compliment by calling him The Author of The Duke 
of Lerma. 

But (that I may pass over his salute) he takes 20 
notice of my great pains to prove rhyme as natural 
in a serious play, and more effectual than blanck 
verse. Thus, indeed, I did state the question; but 
he tells me, / pursue that which I call natural in a 
wrong application : for 'tis not the question whether 25 
rhyme or not rhyme be best or most natural for a 
serious subject, but what is nearest the nature of that 
it represents. 

If I have formerly mistaken the question, I must 
confess my ignorance so far, as to say I continue still 30 
in my mistake : but he ought to have proved that I 
mistook it ; for it is yet but gratis dictum : I still shall 


think I have gained my point, if I can prove that 
rhyme is best or most natural for a serious subject. 
As for the question as he states it, whether rhyme be 
nearest the nature of what it represents, I wonder he 

5 should think me so ridiculous as to dispute whether 
prose or verse be nearest to ordinary conversation. 

It still remains for him to prove his inference, 
that, since verse is granted to be more remote than 
prose from ordinary conversation, therefore no serious 

10 plays ought to be writ in verse : and when he clearly 
makes that good, I will acknowledge his victory as 
absolute as he can desire it. 

The question now is, which of us two has mistaken 
it ; and if it appear I have not, the world will suspect 

15 what gentleman that was, who was allowed to speak 
twice in parliament, because he had not yet spoken to 

' the question ; and perhaps conclude it to be the same, 
who, 'tis reported, maintained a contradiction in ter- 
minis, in the face of three hundred persons. 

20 But to return to verse ; whether it be natural or not 
in plays, is a problem which is not demonstrable of 
either side : 'tis enough for me that he acknowledges 
he had rather read good verse than prose : for if all 
the enemies of verse will confess as much, I shall not 

25 need to prove that it is natural, I am satisfied, if it 

'""cause delight : for delight is the chief, if not the only 11 , 
end of poesie : instruction can be admitted but in the 
second place ; for poesie only instructs as it delights. 
J Tis true, that to imitate well is a poet's work ; but to 

30 affect the soul, and excite the passions, and above all 
to move admiration, which is the delight of serious 
plays, a bare imitation will not serve. The converse, 


therefore, which a poet is to imitate, must be heightened 
with all the arts and ornaments of poesie ; and must 
be such, as, strictly considered, could never be sup 
posed spoken by any without premeditation. 

As for what he urges, that a play will still be sup- 5 
posed to be a composition of several persons speaking ex 
tempore ; and that good verses are the hardest things 
which can be imagined to be so spoken ; I must crave 
leave to dissent from his opinion, as to the former 
part of it : for, if I am not deceived, a play is supposed 10 
to be the work of the poet, imitating or representing 
the conversation of several persons ; and this I think 
to be as clear, as he thinks the contrary. 

But I will be bolder, and do not doubt to make it 
good, though a paradox, that one great reason why 15 
prose is not to be used in serious plays, is, because it 
is too near the nature of converse : there may be too 
great a likeness ; as the most skilful painters affirm, 
that there may be too near a resemblance in a picture : 
to take every lineament and feature, is not to make an 20 
excellent piece; but to take so much only as will 
make a beautiful resemblance of the whole; and, with 
an ingenious flattery of nature, to heighten the beauties 
of some parts, and hide the deformities of the rest. 
For so says Horace: 25 

Ut pictura poesis erit 

ffcec amat obscurum, vult h<zc sub luce videri, 
Judicis argutum quce non formidat acumen*. 

Desperat tractata nitescere posse, relinquit*. 30 

In Bartholomew Fair, or the lowest kind of comedy, 
that degree of heightning is used, which is proper to 


set off that subject. 'Tis true the author was not 
there to go out of prose, as he does in his higher 
arguments of comedy, The Fox, and Aichymist', yet 
he does so raise his matter in that prose, as to render 
5 it delightful ; which he could never have performed, 
had he only said or done those very things that are 
daily spoken or practised in the Fair; for then the 
Fair itself would be as full of pleasure to an ingenious 
person as the play; which we manifestly see it is not. 

10 But he hath made an excellent lazar n of it : the copy 
is of price, though the original be vile. You see in 
Catiline and Sejanus, where the argument is great, he 
sometimes ascends to verse, which shews he thought 
it not unnatural in serious plays : and had his genius 

15 been as proper for rhyme, as it was for humour, 
or had the age in which he lived attained to as much 
knowledge in verse as ours, it is probable he would 
have adorned those subjects with that kind of 

20 Thus prose, though the rightful prince, yet is by 
common consent deposed, as too weak for the govern 
ment of serious plays ; and he failing, there now start 
up two competitors ; one the nearer in blood, which 
is blanck verse; the other more fit for the ends 

25 of government, which is rhyme. Blanck verse is, 
indeed, the nearer prose, but he is blemished with 
the weakness of his predecessor. Rhyme (for I will 
deal clearly) has somewhat of the usurper in him ; 
but he is brave and generous, and his dominion 
'30 pleasing. For this reason of delight, the Ancients 
(whom I will still believe as wise as those who so 
confidently correct them) wrote all their tragedies in 


verse, though they knew it most remote from con 

But I perceive I am falling into the danger of 
another rebuke from my opponent ; for when I plead 
that the Ancients used verse, I prove not that they 5 
would have admitted rhyme, had it then been written : 
all I can say is only this ; that it seems to have suc 
ceeded verse by the general consent of poets in all 
modern languages : for almost all their serious plays 
are written in it : which, though it be no demonstra- 10 
tion that therefore they ought to be so, yet at least 
the practice first, and then the continuation of it, 
shews that it attained the end, which was to please; 
and if that cannot be compassed here, I will be the 
first who shall lay it down. For I confess my chief 1 5 
endeavours are to delight the age in which I live. If 
the humour of this be for low comedy, small acci 
dents, and raillery, I will force my genius to obey it, 
though with more reputation I could write in verse. 
I know I am not so fitted by nature to write comedy : 20 
I want that gayety of humour which is required to it. 
My conversation 11 is slow and dull, my humour satur 
nine and reserved: in short, I am none of those who 
endeavour to break jests in company, or make repar- 
ties. So that those who decry my comedies do me no 25 
injury, except it be in point of profit : reputation in 
them is the last thing to which I shall pretend. I 
beg pardon for entertaining the reader with so ill 
a subject ; but before I quit that argument, which was 
the cause of this digression, I cannot but take notice 30 
how I am corrected for my quotation of Seneca, in my 
defence of plays in verse. My words are these : ' Our 


language is noble, full, and significant ; and I know 
not why he who is master of it, may not cloath ordi 
nary things in it as decently as the Latine, if he use 
the same diligence in his choice of words. One would 
5 think, unlock a door, was a thing as vulgar as could be 
spoken; yet Seneca could make it sound high and 
lofty in his Latin : 

Reseratc clusos regii pastes laris? 

But he says of me, That being filled with the prece- 

10 dents of the Ancients, who writ their plays in verse, 

I commend the thing ; declaring our language to be full, 

noble, and significant, and charging all defects upon the 

ill placing of words, which I prove by quoting Seneca 

loftily expressing such an ordinary thing as shutting a 

15 door. 

Here he manifestly mistakes; for I spoke not 
of the placing, but of the choice of words ; for 
which I quoted that aphorism of Julius Caesar : 

Delectus verborum est origo eloqtientia : 

20 but delectus verborum is no more Latin for the placing 
of words, than reserate is Latin for shut the door, 
as he interprets it, which I ignorantly construed 
unlock or open it. 

He supposes I was highly affected with the sound 

25 of those words ; and I suppose I may more justly 
imagine it of him ; for if he had not been extreamly 
satisfied with the sound, he would have minded the 
sense a little better. 

But these are now to be no faults ; for ten days 

30 after his book is published, and that his mistakes are 
grown so famous that they are come back to him, he 


sends his Errata* to be printed, and annexed to his 
play; and desires, that instead of shutting you would 
read opening ; which, it seems, was the printer's fault. 
I wonder at his modesty, that he did not rather say it 
was Seneca's, or mine ; and that in some authors, 5 
reserare was to shut as well as to open, as the word 
barach n , say the learned, is both to bless and curse. 

Well, since it was the printer, he was a naughty 
man to commit the same mistake twice in six lines : I 
warrant you delectus verborum for placing of words 10 
was his mistake too, though the author forgot to tell 
him of it : if it were my book, I assure you I should. 
For those rascals ought to be the proxies of every 
gentleman author, and to be chastised for him, when 
he is not pleased to own an errour. Yet since he 15 
has given the Errata, I wish he would have inlarged 
them only a few sheets more, and then he would have 
spared me the labour of an answer : for this cursed 
printer is so given to mistakes, that there is scarce 
a sentence in the Preface without some false grammar 20 
or hard sense in it ; which will all be charged upon 
the poet, because he is so good-natured as to lay but 
three errours to the printer's account, and to take the 
rest upon himself, who is better able to support them. 
But he needs not apprehend that I should strictly 25 
examine those little faults, except I am called upon to 
do it: I shall return therefore to that quotation of 
Seneca, and answer, not to what he writes, but to 
what he means. I never intended it as an argument, 
but only as an illustration of what I had said before 30 

* This erratum has been suffered to remain in the edition of the 
knight's plays now before us, published in 1692. (Scott.) 


concerning the election of words : and all he can 
charge me with is only this, that if Seneca could 
make an ordinary thing sound well in Latin by the 
choice of words, the same, with the like care, might 
5 be performed in English : if it cannot, I have com 
mitted an errour on the right hand, by commending 
too much the copiousness and well-sounding of our 
language ; which I hope my countrymen will pardon 
me. At least the words which follow in my Dramatique 

10 Essay will plead somewhat in my behalf; for I say 
there, that this objection happens but. seldom in a 
play; and then too either the meanness of the expres 
sion may be avoided, or shut out from the verse by 
breaking it in the midst. 

15 But I have said too much in the defence of verse ; 
for after all, it is a very indifferent thing to me, 
whether it obtain or not. I am content hereafter to 
be ordered by his rule, that is, to write it sometimes, 
because it pleases me; and so much the rather, 

20 because he has declared that it pleases him. But 
he has taken his last farewell of the Muses, and he 
has done it civilly, by honouring them with the name 
of his long acquaintances] which fe a complement 1 
they have scarce deserved from him. For my own 

25 part, I bear a share in the publick loss ; and how 
emulous soever I may be of his fame and reputation, 
I cannot but give this testimony of his style, that it 
is extream poetical, even in oratory; his thoughts 
elevated sometimes above common apprehension ; his 

30 notions politick and grave, and tending to the in 
struction of princes, and reformation of states ; that 
1 sic. 


they are abundantly interlaced with variety of fancies, 
tropes, and figures, which the criticks have enviously 
branded with the name of obscurity and false grammar. 

Well, he is now fettered in business of more un 
pleasant nature : the Muses have lost him, but the 5 
commonwealth gains by it ; the corruption of a poet 
is the generation of a statesman. 

He will not venture again into the civil wars of 
censure ; ubi . . . nullos habitura triumphos n : if he 
had not told us he had left the Muses, we might 10 
have half suspected it by that word, ubi, which does 
not any way belong to them in that place ; the rest 
of the verse is indeed Lucan's ; but that ubi, I will 
answer for it, is his own. Yet he has another 
reason for this disgust of Poesie ; for he says imme- 15 
diately after, that the manner of plays which are now 
in most esteem, is beyond his power to perform : to 
perform the manner of a thing, I confess is new 
English to me. However, he condemns not the satis 
faction of others ; but rather their unnecessary under- 20 
standing, who, like Sancho Panda's doctor, prescribe too 
strictly to our appetites ; for, says he, in the difference 
of Tragedy and Comedy, and of Farce itself, there 
can be no determination but by the taste, nor in the 
manner of their composure. 25 

We shall see him now as great a critick as he 
was a poet; and the reason why he excelled so 
much in poetry will be evident, for it will appear 
to have proceeded from the exactness of his judg 
ment. In the difference of Tragedy, Comedy, and 30 
Farce itself, there can be no determination but by the 
taste. I will not quarrel with the obscurity of his 


phrase, though I justly might ; but beg his pardon 
if I do not rightly understand him : if he means, that 
there is no essential difference betwixt comedy, 
tragedy, and farce, but what is only made by the 

5 people's taste, which distinguishes one of them from 
the other, that is so manifest an errour, that I need 
not lose time to contradict it. Were there neither 
judge, taste, nor opinion in the world, yet they would 
differ in their natures; for the action, character, 

10 and language of tragedy, would still be great and 
high; that of comedy lower and more familiar; 
admiration would be the delight of one, and satyr n 
of the other. 

I have but briefly touched upon these things, 

15 because, whatever his words are, I can scarce imagine, 
that he who is always concerned for the true honour 
of reason, and would have no spurious issue fathered 
upon her, should mean any thing so absurd as to 
affirm, that there is no difference betwixt comedy and 

ao tragedy, but what is made by the taste only : unless 
he would have us understand the comedies of my 
Lord L* n , where the first act should be pottages, 
the second Fricassees, &c. . and the fifth a chere 
enliere of women. 

25 I rather giiess he means, that betwixt one comedy 
or tragedy and another, there is no other difference 
but what is made by the liking or disliking of the 
audience. This is indeed a less errour than the 
former, but yet it is a great one. The_J.iking_pr 

30 disliking of the people gives the play the denomina- 

* I suppose lord Lauderdale. He was not created a duke till 
1472. (Malone.) 


tion of good or bad ; but does not really make or 
constitute it such. To please the people ought to 
be the poet's aim, because plays are made for their 
delight ; but it does not follow that they are always 
pleased with good plays, or that the plays which 5 
please them are always good. The humour of the 
people is now for comedy ; therefore, in hope to 
please them, I write comedies rather than serious ! , 
plays ; and so far their taste prescribes to me : but 
it does not follow from that reason, that comedy is 10 
to be preferred before tragedy in its own nature ; for 
that which is so in its own nature cannot be other 
wise ; as a man cannot but be a rational creature : 
but the opinion of the people may alter, and in 
another age, or perhaps in this, serious plays may 15 
be set up above comedies. 

This I think a sufficient answer : if it be not, he 
has provided me of ah excuse; it seems, in his 
wisdom, he foresaw my weakness, and has found 
out this expedient for me, That it is not necessary for 20 
poets to study strict reason ; since they are so used to 
a greater latitude than is allowed by that severe in 
quisition, that they must infringe their own jurisdiction^ 
to profess themselves obliged to argue well. 

I am obliged to him for discovering to me this 25 
back-door ; but I am not yet resolved on my retreat : 
for I am of opinion that they cannot be good poets, 
who are not accustomed to argue well. False 
reasonings and colours of speech are the certain 
marks of one who does not understand the stage ; 30 
for moral truth is the mistress of the poet, as much 
as of the philosopher. Poesie must resemble natural 


truth, but it must be ethical. Indeed the poet dresses 
truth, and adorns nature, but does not alter them : 

fie fa voluptatis causb sint proximo, vcris^. 

Therefore, that is not the best poesy, which re- 
5 sembles notions of things that are not to things that 
are : though the fancy may be great, and the words 
flowing, yet the soul is but half satisfied when there 
is not truth in the foundation. This is that which 
makes Virgil be preferred before the rest of Poets : 

ro in variety <5f fancy and sweetness of expression, 
you see Ovid far above him ; for Virgil rejected 
many of those things which Ovid wrote. A great 
wifs great work is to refuse, as my worthy friend, 
Sir John Berkenhead ", has ingeniously expressed it: 

15 you rarely meet with any thing in Virgil but truth, 
which therefore leaves the strongest impression of 
pleasure in the soul. This I thought myself obliged 
to say in behalf of Poesie ; and to declare, though it 
be against myself, that when poets do not argue well, 

20 the defect is in the workman, not in the art. 

And now I come to the boldest part of his dis 
course, wherein he attacques not me, but all the 
ancients and moderns ; and undermines, as he thinks, 
the very foundations on which Dramatique Poesie is 

25 built. I could wish he would have declined that envy 
which must of necessity follow such an undertaking, 
and contented himself with triumphing over me in my 
opinions of verse, which I will never hereafter dispute 
with him ; but he must pardon me, if I have that 

30 veneration for Aristotle, Horace, Ben Johnson, and 
Corneille, that I dare not serve him in such a cause, 


and against such heroes, but rather fight under their 
protection, as Homer reports of little Teucer, who 
shot the Trojans from under the large buckler of 
Ajax Telamon : 

STT; 8* ap' UTT' Atavros ffa.K(i Tf\ajucyj/ia8ao n , 5 

He stood beneath his brother's ample shield, 

And cover'd there, shot death through all the field, 

The words of my noble adversary are these : 

But if we examine the general rules laid down for 
plays by strict reason, we shall find the err ours equally 10 
gross ; for the great foundation which is laid to build 
upon, is nothing, as it is generally stated, as will appear 
upon the examination of the particulars. 

These particulars, in due time, shall be examined : 
in the mean while, let us consider what this great 15 
foundation is, which he says is nothing, as it is 
generally stated. I never heard of any other foun 
dation of Dramatique Poesie than the imitation of 
nature ; neither was there ever pretended any other 
by the ancients, or moderns, or me, who endeavour 20 
to follow them in that rule. This I have plainly 
said in my definition of a play ; that it is a just and 
lively image of human nature, &c. Thus the foun 
dation, as it is generally stated, will stand sure, if 
this definition of a play be true ; if it be not, he 25 
ought to have made his exception against it, by 
proving that a play is not an imitation of nature, 
but somewhat else which he is pleased to think it. 

But it is very plain, that he has mistaken the 
foundation for that which is built upon it, though 30 

1 2 


not immediately : for the direct and immediate con 
sequence is this ; if nature be to be imitated, then 
there is a rule for imitating nature rightly ; otherwise 
there may be an end, and no means conducing to it. 
5 Hitherto I have proceeded by demonstration; but 
as our divines, when they have proved a Deity, 
because there is order, and have inferred that this 
Deity ought to be worshipped, differ afterwards 
in the manner of the worship ; so, having laid 

10 down that nature is to be imitated, and that propo 
sition provirig the next, that then there are means 
which conduce to the imitating of nature, I dare 
proceed no farther positively; but have only laid 
'down some opinions of the ancients and moderns, 

15 and of my own, as means which they used, and 
which I thought probable for the attaining of that 
end. Those means are the same which my antagon 
ist calls the foundations, how properly, the world 
may judge ; and to prove that this is his meaning, 

20 he clears it immediately to you, by enumerating those 
rules or propositions against which he makes his 
particular exceptions, as namely, those of time, and 
place, in these words : First, we are told the plot 
should not be so ridiculously contrived, as to crowd two 

* 5 several countries into one stage ; secondly, to cramp the 
accidents of many years or days into the representation 
of two hours and an half; and lastly, a conclusion 
drawn, that the only remaining dispute is, concerning 
time, whether it should be contained in twelve or twenty- 
r hours ; and the place to be limited to that spot 
of ground where the play is supposed to begin : and 
this is called nearest nature; for that is concluded most 


natural, which is most probable, and nearest to that 
which it presents. 

Thus he has only made a small mistake of the 
means conducing to the end, for the end itself; and 
of the superstructure for the foundation : but he pro- 5 
ceeds : To shew, therefore, upon what ill grounds they 
dictate lavas for Dramatique Poesie, &c. He is here 
pleased to charge me with being magisterial, as he 
has done in many other places of his Preface. There 
fore in vindication of myself, I must crave leave to 10 
say, that my whole discourse was sceptical, according 
to that way of reasoning which was used by Socrates, 
Plato, and all the Academicques of ol-d, which Tully 
and the best of the ancients followed, and which is 
imitated by the modest inquisitions of the Royal 15 
Society. That it is so, not only the name will shew, 
which is, An Essay, but the frame and composition 
of the work. You see, it is a dialogue sustained by 
persons of several opinions, all of them left doubtful, 
to be determined by the readers in general ; and ao 
more particularly defer'd to the accurate judgment of 
my lord Buckhurst, to whom I made a dedication 
of my book. These are my words in my Epistle, / 
speaking of the persons whom I introduced in my 
dialogue : It is true, they differed in their opinions, 
as it is probable they would ; neither do I take upon 
me to reconcile, but to relate them, leaving your 
lordship to decide it in favour of that part which you 
shall judge most reasonable. And after that, in my 
Advertisement to the Reader, I said this : The drift 3< 
of the ensuing discourse is chiefly to vindicate the 
honour of our English writers from the censure of 


those who unjustly prefer the French before them. 
This I intimate, lest any should think me so exceeding 
vain, as to teach others an art which they understand 
much better than myself . But this is more than 
5 necessary to clear my modesty in that point ; and I 
am very confident that there is scarce any man who 
has lost so much time as to read that trifle, but will 
be my compurgator as to that arrogance whereof 
I am accused. The truth is, if I had been naturally 

10 guilty of so much vanity as to dictate my opinions, 
yet I do not find that the character of a positive or 
self-conceited person* is of such advantage to any in 
this age, that I should labour to be publickly admitted 
of that order. 

15 But I am not now to defend my own cause, when 
that of all the ancients and moderns is in question : 
for this gentleman, who accuses me of arrogance, has 
taken a course not to be taxed with the other extream 
of modesty. Those propositions which are laid down 

20 in my discourse, as helps to the better imitation of 
nature, are not mine; (as I have said,) nor were ever 
pretended so to be, but derived from the authority 
of Aristotle and Horace, and from the rules and 
examples of Ben Johnson and Corneille. These are 

35 the men with whom properly he contends, and against 

* Sir Robert Howard's own character. He is supposed to have 
been ridiculed under the character of Sir Positive Atall, in Shad- 
well's Sullen Lovers, represented and published in the same year in 
which this piece was written. (Malone.) Sir Positive is, adds 
Scott, ' a foolish knight that pretends to understand everything in 
the world, and will suffer no man to understand anything in his 
company ; so foolishly positive that he will never be convinced of 
an error, though ever so gross.' Cf. p. 102, 1. 14. 


whom he will endeavour to make it evident, that there is 
no such thing as what they all pretend. 

His argument against the unities of place and time,- 
is this : That it is as impossible for one stage to present 
two rooms or houses truly, as two countries or king- 5 
doms ; and as impossible that Jive hours or twenty-four 
hours should be two hours, as that a thousand hours or 
years should be less than what they are, or the greatest 
part of time to be comprehended in the less : for all of 
them being impossible, they are none of them nearest the 10 
truth or nature of what they present ; for impossibilities 
are all equal, and admit of no degree. 

This argument is so scattered into parts, that it can 
scarce be united into a syllogism ; yet, in obedience 
to him, / will abbreviate and comprehend as much of 15 
it as I can in few words, that my answer to it may be 
more perspicuous. I conceive his meaning to be what 
follows, as to the unity of place : (if I mistake, I beg 
his pardon, professing it is not out of any design 
to play the Argumentative Poet.) If one stage cannot 20 
properly present two rooms or houses, much less two 
countries or kingdoms, then there can be no unity 
of place ; but one stage cannot properly perform this : 
therefore there can be no unity of place. 

I plainly deny his minor proposition ; the force of 25 
which, if I mistake not, depends on this; that the 
stage being one place cannot be two. This, indeed, 
is as great a secret, as that we are all mortal*; but 

* There is here, I believe, a covert allusion to the character in 
Shadwell's play already mentioned, who in the first scene, addressing 
Sandford, says, ' betwixt you and I, let me tell you, we are all 
mortal ; ' in which -wise remark the author probably had in view 
Sir Robert Howard's poem ' Against the Fear of Death/ (Malone.) 


to requite it with another, I must crave leave to tell 
him, that though the stage cannot be two places, yet 
it may properly represent them, successively, or at 
several times. His argument is indeed no more than 
5 a mere fallacy, which will evidently appear, when we 
distinguish place, as it relates to plays, into real and 
imaginary. The real place is that theatre, or piece 
of ground, on which the play is acted. The imaginary, 
that house, town, or country, where the action of the 

10 Drama is supposed to be ; or more plainly, where 
the scene of the play is laid. Let us now apply this to 
that Herculean" argument, which if strictly and duly 
weighed, is to make it evident, that there is no such 
thing as ivhat they all pretend. It is impossible, he 

15 says, for one stage to present two rooms or houses : 

r-* I answer, itjjs neither impossible, nor improper, for 
one real place to represent two or more imaginary 
places, so it be done successively; which in other 
words is no more than this ; That the imagination of 

20 the audience, aided by the words of the poet, and 
painted scenes, may suppose the stage to be some 
times one place, sometimes another ; now a garden, 
or wood, and immediately a camp : which, I appeal 
V to every man's imagination, if it be not true. Neither 

25 the ancients nor moderns, as much fools as he is 
pleased to think them, ever asserted that they could 
make one place two; but they might hope, by the 
good leave of this author, that the change of a scene 
might lead the imagination to suppose the place 

30 altered : So that he cannot fasten those absurdities 
upon this scene of a play, or imaginary place of 
action, that it is one place, and yet two. And this 


being so clearly proved, that it is past any shew of 
a reasonable denial, it will not be hard to destroy 
that other part of his argument which depends upon 
it; namely, that it is as impossible for a stage to 
represent two rooms or houses, as two countries or 5 
kingdoms ; for his reason is already overthrown, 
which was, because both were alike impossible. This 
is manifestly otherwise ; for it is proved that a stage 
may properly represent two rooms or houses ; for 
the imagination being judge of what is represented, 10 
will in reason be less chocqu'd l with the appearance 
of two rooms in the same house, or two houses in 
the same city, than with two distant cities in the 
same country, or two remote countries in the same 
universe. Imagination in a man or reasonable 15 
creature is supposed to participate of reason ; and 
when that governs, as it does in the belief of fiction, 
reason is not destroyed, but misled, or blinded : that 
can prescribe to the reason, during the time of the 
representation, somewhat like a weak belief of what 20 
it sees and hears ; and reason suffers itself to be so 
hood-winked, that it may better enjoy the pleasures 
of the fiction : but it is never so wholly made a cap 
tive, as to be drawn headlong into a perswasion of 
those things which are most remote from probability: 25 
'tis in that case a free-born subject, not a slave ; it 
will contribute willingly its assent, as far as it sees 
convenient, but will not be forced. Now there is 
a greater vicinity in nature betwixt two rooms than 
betwixt two houses, betwixt two houses than betwixt 30 

1 Malone and Scott read ' choked.' 


two cities, and so of the rest ; Reason therefore can 
sooner be led by Imagination to step from one room 
into another, than to walk to two distant houses, and 
yet rather to go thither, than to flye like a witch 
5 through the air, and be hurried from one region to 
another. Fancy and Reason go hand in hand ; the 
first cannot leave the last behind ; and though Fancy, 
when it sees the wide gulph, would venture over as 
the nimbler, yet it is withheld by Reason, which will 

10 refuse to take the leap, when the distance over it 
appears too large. If Ben Johnson himself will re 
move the scene from Rome into Tuscany in the same 
act, and from thence return to Rome, in the scene 
which immediately follows, Reason will consider 

15 there is no proportionable allowance of time to per 
form the journey, and therefore will chuse to stay at 
home. So then, the less change of place there is, 
the less time is taken up in transporting the persons 
of the drama, with analogy to reason ; and in that 

20 analogy, or resemblance of fiction to truth, consists 

U4he excellency of the play. 

For what else concerns the unity of place, I have 
already given my opinion of it in my Essay] that 
there is a latitude to be allowed to it, as several 

25 places in the same town or city, or places adjacent 
to each other in the same country, which may all be 
comprehended under the larger denomination of one 
place ; yet with .this restriction, that the nearer^and 
fewer those imaginary places are, the greater re- 

30 semblance they will have to truth ; and reason, which 
cannot make them one, will be more easily led to 
suppose them so. 


What has been said of the unity of place, may 
easily be applied to that of time : I grant it to be im 
possible, that the greater part of time should be 
comprehended in the less, that twenty-four hours 
should be crowded into three : but there is no neces- 5 
sity of that supposition. For as Place, so Time 
relating to a play, is either imaginary or real : the 
real is comprehended in those three hours, more or 
less, in the space of which the play is represented ; 
the imaginary is that which is supposed to be taken 10 
up in the representation, as twenty-four hours more 
or less. Now no man ever could suppose that 
twenty-four real hours could be included in the 
space of three : but where is the absurdity of 
affirming that the feigned business of twenty-four 15 
imagined hours may not more naturally be repre 
sented in the compass of three real hours, than 
the like feigned business of twenty-four years in 
the same proportion of real time? For the pro 
portions are always real, and much nearer, by his 20 
permission, of twenty-four to three, than of four 
thousand to it. 

I am almost fearful of illustrating any thing by 
similitude, lest he should confute it for an argu 
ment; yet I think the comparison of a glass will 25 
discover very aptly the fallacy of his argument, both 
concerning time and place. The strength of his 
reason depends on this, That the less cannot com 
prehend the greater. I have already answered, 
that we need not suppose it does : I say not that 3! 
the less can comprehend the greater, but only that 
it may represent it : as in a glass or Mirrour of half 


a yard diameter, a whole room and many persons in 
it may be seen at once ; not that it can comprehend 
that room or those persons, but that it represents 
them to the sight. 

5 But the author of The Duke of Lerma is to be ex 
cused for his declaring against the unity of time ; for, 
if I be not much mistaken, he is an interested person ; 
the time of that play taking up so many years as the 
favour of the Duke of Lerma continued ; nay ; the 

10 second and third act including all the time of his 
prosperity, which was a great part of frhe reign of 
Philip the Third : for in the beginning of the second 
act he was not yet a favourite, and before the end of 
the third was in disgrace. I say not this with the 

15 least design of limiting the stage too servilely to 
twenty-four hours, however he be pleased to tax me 
with dogmatizing in that point. In my dialogue, as 
I before hinted, several persons maintained their 
several opinions : one of them, indeed, who sup- 

20 ported the cause of the French poesie, said, how 
strict they were in that particular ; but he who an 
swered in behalf of our nation, was willing to give 
more latitude to the rule ; and cites the words of 
Corneille himself, complaining against the severity 

25 of it, and observing what beauties it banished from 

the Stage *. In few words, my own opinion is this, 

(and I willingly submit it to my adversary, when he 

will please impartially to consider it,) that the ima- 

I r I ginary time of every play ought to be contrived into 

- \ 3P as narrow a compass as the nature of the plot, the 

' quality of the persons, and variety of accidents will 

* See p. 62. 


allow. In comedy I would not exceed twenty-four 
or thirty hours : for the plot, accidents, and persons 
of comedy are small, and may be naturally turned in 
a little compass: But in tragedy the design is weighty, 
and the persons great ; therefore there will naturally 5 
be required a greater space of time in which to move 
them. And this though Ben Johnson has not told 
us, yet it is manifestly his opinion : for you see that 
to his comedies he allows generally but twenty-four 
hours ; to his two tragedies, Sejanus and Catih'ne, a 10 
much larger time : though he draws both of them into 
as narrow a compass as he can : For he shews you 
only the latter end of Sejanus his favour, and the 
conspiracy of Catiline already ripe, and just breaking 
out into action. 15 

But as it is an errour on the one side, to make too 
great a disproportion betwixt the imaginary time of 
the play, and the real time of its representation ; so 
on the other side, it is an over-sight to compress the 
accidents of a play into a narrower compass than that 20 
in which they could naturally be produced. Of this 
last errour the French are seldom guilty, because 
the thinness of their plots prevents them from it; 
but few Englishmen, except Ben Johnson, have ever 
made a plot with variety of design in it, included in 25 
twenty- four hours, which was altogether natural. For 
this reason, I prefer The Silent Woman before all 
other plays, I think justly; as I do its author, in judg 
ment, above all other poets. Yet of the two, I think 
that errour the most pardonable, which in too straight 30 
a compass crowds together many accidents; since 
it produces more variety, and consequently more 


pleasure to the audience ; and because the nearness of 
proportion betwixt the imaginary and real time, does 
speciously cover the compression of the accidents. 
Thus I have endeavoured to answer the meaning 

5 of his argument ; for as he drew it, I humbly conceive 
that it was none ; as will appear by his proposition, 
and the proof of it. His proposition was this. 

If strictly and duly weighed, it is as impossible for 
one stage to present two rooms or houses, as two coun- 

so tries or kingdoms, &c. And his proof this : For all 
being impossible, they are none of them nearest the 
truth or nature of what they present. 

Here you see, instead of proof or reason, there is 
only petitio principii : for in plain words, his sense is 

15 this ; Two things are as impossible as one another, 
because they are both equally impossible : but he 
takes those two things to be granted as impossible 
which he ought to have proved such, before he had 
proceeded to prove them equally impossible: he should 

20 have made out first, that it was impossible for one 

stage to represent two houses, and then have gone 

forward to prove that it was as equally impossible 

for a stage to present two houses, as two countries. 

After all this, the very absurdity to which he would 

25 reduce me is none at all : for he only drives at this, 
That if his argument be true, I must then acknow 
ledge that there are degrees in impossibilities, which 
I easily grant him without dispute : and if I mistake 
not, Aristotle and the School are of my opinion. For 

30 there are some things which are absolutely impossible, 
and others which are only so ex parte ; as it is ab 
solutely impossible for a thing to be, and not be, at 


the same time ; but for a stone to move naturally up 
ward, is only impossible exparte materice ; but it is not 
impossible for the first mover to alter the nature of it. 
His last assault, like that of a Frenchman, is most 
feeble : for whereas I have observed, that none have 5 
been violent against verse, but such only as have not 
attempted it, or have succeeded ill in their attempt, 
he will needs, according to his usual custom, improve 
my observation to an argument, that he might have 
the glory to confute it. But I lay my observation at 10 
his feet, as I do my pen, which I have often employed 
willingly in his deserved commendations, and now 
most unwillingly against his judgment. For his 
person and parts, I honour them as much as any 
man living, and have had so many particular obliga- 15 
tions to him, that I should be very ungrateful, if I did 
not acknowledge them to the world. But I gave not 
the first occasion of this difference in opinions. In 
my Epistle Dedicatory before my Rival Ladies, I had 
said somewhat in behalf of verse, which he was pleased 20 
to answer in his Preface to his plays : that occasioned 
my reply in my Essay ; and that reply begot this re- 
joynder of his in his Preface to The Duke of Lerma. 
But as I was the last who took up arms, I will be the 
first to lay them down. For what I have here written, 25 
I submit it wholly to him ; and if I do not hereafter 
answer what may be objected against this paper, I 
hope the world will not impute it to any other reason, 
than only the due respect which I have for so noble 
an opponent. 3 


Preface, ix, 3. Sir Robert Howard (1626-98) was Dryden's 
brother-in-law. His Poems were putyished in 1660, with 
verses from Dryden prefixed. In 1665 Four New Plays of 
Howard's were published in folio ; viz. Surprisal and Com 
mittee (comedies), and Vestal Virgin and Indian Queen 
(tragedies). The preface of this volume led to Dryden's 
Essay (Ker). 

6. [Sir Charles Sedley or Sidley (c. 1639-1701) was 
about the same age as Dryden. His plays are Antony and 
Cleopatra (1677), a rhyming tragedy, and four others, of 
which three were comedies. To Sedley is also due one 
of the most famous and beautiful 'openings' in English 
poetry : 

Xove still has something of the sea 
From which his mother rose. 

He is less favourably known by the story of his wild and 
dissolute youth which Johnson has recorded in the Lives of 
the Poets.} 

9. [The Greeks themselves appear to have had no 
association of novus homo with the name, which conveyed 
simply the notion of youth and courage. The Etymologicum 
Magnum has sub voc.: "Qvopa Kvpiov, eVei vtos avdpeixraro *? 
Vos &v avdpelos rjvJ\ 

1. Charles Sackville, Lord Buckhurst, afterwards Earl of 

p Dorset, author of the well-known song 'To all you ladies 

now on land,' and Lord Chamberlain to William III after 

the Revolution, was always a kind friend and patron to 

Dryden, and liberally assisted him when the loss of his 



office as poet-laureate, through his refusal to take the oaths 
to William, brought the poet to great distress. See the long 
dedication to Dfyden's Discourse concerning the Original 
and Progress of Satire (ii. is) 1 . 

2. 17. The Tragedy of Pompey the Great, * translated 
out of French by certain persons of honour': 4to 1664. 
From Dryden's eulogium it appears that the fourth act was 
translated by Lord Buckhurst ; the first was done by Waller 
(Malone). Sir Charles Sedley, Malone says in another 
place, had also a hand in this translation, which was from 
the Pompee of Corneille. The act translated by Waller is 
published among his works. 

[Ibid. In the second edition of the Essay (which is the 
one here reprinted), Dryden has deliberately eliminated the 
detached (Sweet, p. 138), postponed (Matzner, ii. 482), 
or pendent preposition. Instead of 'such arguments as 
the fourth act of Pompey will furnish me with,' he now 
writes, * such arguments as those with which the fourth act of 
Pompey will furnish me.' That this change was deliberate 
appears from Dryden's theory as well as from his practice. 
In his Defence of the Epilogiie he enumerates among the 
weaknesses of Ben Jonson's diction, * the preposition in the 
end of the sentence ; a common fault with him, and which 
I have but lately observed in my own writings' (ii. 168). 
Professor Ker's view is that ' in his revision of the Essay of 
Dramatic Poesy Dryden came to believe that he ought to 
put some restraint on his tendency to leave hanging phrases 
at the end of his sentences. As he tells us himself, he noted as 
a fault the preposition left at the end of a clause and belong 
ing to a relative understood' (I. p. xxvii). The most common 
form of this colloquial use is, of course, that in which there is 
ellipse of the relative, with the preposition which really 
governs that relative thrown to the end; but Dryden in 
revising the Essay has also shown himself hostile to the 

1 The references to other prose works of Dryden are to Prof. W. P. 
Ker's edition of the Essays of John Dryden, in 2 vols. (Clarendon 
Press, 1900). 

NOTES. 131 

ordinary use of suffixed prepositions, which in words like 
4 allude to,' 'deal with,' 'give up," reckon in, "sum up,' 'tamper 
with,' form an integral part of the verbal phrase. The matter 
is important, as few among the formal points of style more 
affect the general character of a writer's prose than his 
fondness for, or avoidance of, these pendent prepositions. 
In conversation everybody uses them ; everybody says ' the 
place he lived in,' no one says ' the place in which he lived.' 
But to use' these pendent prepositions in writing as freely as 
they are used in speech is to leave an over-colloquial and 
unbraced effect. We all feel, for instance, that that consider 
able though careless writer, Mrs. Oliphant, was ill advised 
when she penned such a phrase as, ' ... an offensive hos 
pitality which often annoyed her, and which the Marchioness, 
for example, scarcely hesitated to show her contempt of 
(At His Gates^ chap, xxvii). On the other hand, to avoid 
them altogether is perhaps to be over-formal, and to make 
the gap too wide between the spoken and the written word. 
In any case, it is interesting to watch the deliberate practice 
of such a master as Dryden in the following cases, all taken 
from the Essay : 

First Edition. 

P. 14, 1. 25, The age I live in.' 
P. 30, 1. 23, ' whom all the story 

is built upon.' 
P 47> ! 3> 'tumult which we 

are subject to.' 

P. 60, 1. 1 8, ' end he aimed at.' 
P. 99, 1. 1 6, 'water which the 

moonbeams played upon.' 

Second Edition. 
' The age in which I live.' 
1 on whom the story is built.' 

1 tumult to which we are sub 

end at which he aimed.' 
water upon which the moon 
beams played.' 

Apart from these relatival clauses Dryden got rid of the 
pendent preposition in p. 14, 1. 9, where 'hardly dealt with' 
gives way in the second edition to * had hard measure ' ; 
'p. 48, 1. 23, where 'all the actor can persuade us to,' becomes 
'all the actor can insinuate into us' ; p. 52, 1. 12, where the 
second edition eliminates the superfluous 'of in 'expect to 
hear of in a sermon'; p. 64, 1. 15, where 'thrusts him in 

K 2 


through a door,' becomes ' thrusts him into a place of safety ' 
(the juxtaposition of the pendent and the normal preposition 
was here no doubt felt particularly awkward) ; p. 72, 1. 16, 
where, ' this the poet seems to allude to,' of the first edition, 
becomes ' to this the poet seems to allude ' in the second ; 
and p. 83, 1. 25, where 'this miserable necessity you are 
forced upon,' becomes ' you are often forced on this miserable 
necessity.' We can now see how far Johnson was justified 
in the assertion (Life of Dryden} that ' what he had once 
written, he dismissed from his thoughts ; and I believe there 
is no example to be found of any correction or improvement 
made by him after publication. The hastiness of his pro 
ductions might be the effect of necessity ; but his subsequent 
neglect could hardly have any other cause than impatience 
of study.' For the whole subject, in addition to Sweet and 
Matzner, already cited, see Abbott's Shakesperian Grammar, 
204 and 424, and Kellner's Historical Outlines of English 
Syntax, pp. 278, 298.] 

27. See Valerius Maximus, iv. 5 (De Verecundid) : 
' Excellentis in ea regione (Etruria) pulchritudinis adulescens 
nomine Spurinna, cum mira specie conplurium feminarum 
inlustrium sollicitaret oculos ideoque viris ac parentibus 
earum se suspectum esse sentiret, oris decorem vulneribus 
confudit deformitatemque sanctitatis suae fidem quam formam 
inritamentum alienae libidinis esse maluit.' 
3. 8. Hor. Epod. xvi. 37. 

12. [This encomium of Charles IPs court is probably true 
as far as dramatic writing is concerned. The critical confer 
ences of St. Evremond, Buckingham, and d'Aubigny early in 
Charles' reign were probably the beginnings of post-Restora 
tion dramatic criticism. Sea the first volume of D es Maizeaux' 
edition of St. Evremond. The king, says Burnet, 'had no 
literature, but a true and good sense, and had got a right 
notion of style ' (Elton, Augustan Ages, p. 201). Cf. Sidney's 
Apologie (Arber, p. 69) : ' Undoubtedly I have found in 
divers smally learned Courtiers a more sound style than in 
some professors of learning, of which I can guess no other 

NOTES. 133 

cause but that the Courtier, following that which by practice 
he findeth fittest to nature, therein (though he know it not) 
doth according to Art, though not by Art ; where the other, 
using Art to show Art and not to hide Art (as in these cases 
he should do) flieth from nature, and indeed abuseth Art.' 
In the same vein Dryden writes in the Epistle Dedicatory 
of the Rival Ladies (i. 5) : ( I have endeavoured to write 
English, as near as I could distinguish it from the tongue of 
pedants.' See also this Essay, p. 5 : ' Only it [this war 
of opinions] has been prosecuted by some like pedants, with 
violence of words, and managed by others like gentlemen, 
with candour and civility ' ; and p. 16 : ' They [the Ancients] 
can produce nothing so courtly writ, or which expresses so 
much the conversation of a gentleman, as Sir John Suckling.' 
That there was another, and a very serious side, to this 
Court patronage and to the efforts of writers to obtain it, 
may be gathered from these lines of Scott (Introduction to 
Marjnion] : 

And Dryden in immortal strain 

Had raised the Table Round again, 

But that a ribald King and Court 

Bade him toil on, to make them sport 

Demanded for theii' niggard pay, 

Fit for their souls, a looser lay, 

Licentious satire, song, and play ; 

The world defrauded of the high design, 

Profaned the God-given strength, and marred the lofty line.] 

13. To allow in the last age signified to approve 
(Malone). [The New English Dictionary explains that the 
word has two sources, allaudare to praise, and allocare to 
bestow, assign. 'The two were apparently completely 
identified in Old French and viewed as senses of one word, 
which was adopted with both senses in English before 1300. 
Between the two primary significations there naturally arose 
a variety of uses blending them in the general idea of assign 
with approval? For the verb with 'of,' in the sense of to 
receive with approval^ the Dictionary quotes Richardson 


(Clarissa Harlowe, 1748). Florio's Montaigne (1603) may 
also be cited (Bk. ii. chap. 12, imf.) : ' Undertaking thence 
forward to allow of nothing, except they have first given 
their voice and particular consent to the same. 3 ] 

27. I have not, any more than former editors, succeeded 
in discovering from what French poet these lines are taken. 
[At my request a French friend has submitted the lines to 
M. Beljame, whose intimate knowledge alike of the French 
and of the English literature of the period makes him a good 
authority. M. Beljame replies that this is not the first time 
that the lines have been submitted to him. He cannot 
identify them, and colleagues of his in the University, famous 
for their knowledge of French seventeenth-century poetry, 
have been equally unsuccessful. It has been suggested to 
me from two different French sources (i) that the lines were 
i>ers de socie'te', handed from salon to salon, but never printed ; 
(2) that Dryden (whose French was probably not equal to 
such a feat) wrote them himself by way of mystification.) 

4. 13. These lines are found in a poem by Sir William 
Davenant, printed in 4to in 1663, and republished in his 
works, fol. 1673, p. 268 (Malone). 

28. In the Dedication to The Rival Ladies [1664] ; 
where Dryden argues for the superiority of rhyme over 
blank verse. 

5. ii. ['Confident of state.' The instances of 'confident' 
m the sense now reserved for ' confidant,' which are given by 
the New English Dictionary -, range from 1647 to 1828. 
Scott (Guy Mannering, chap, ii) wrote: 'As he had neither 
friend nor confident ' ; but later editors or printers have 
unfortunately obscured the matter by substituting 'con 
fidant,' which is now the universal usage. In Dryden's own 
prose 'confident' recurs in the Dedication to the Aeneis 
(ii. 190)' Then she was forced to make a confident of her 
whom she best might trust ' ; but ' confidant ' (unless here 
also the printers have been at work) in his Preface to the 
Translation of Ovid's Epistles (i. 232)' Ovid was either 
the confidant of some other passion.'] 

NOTES. 135 

1 8. See Cicero's Letters toAtticus, xii. 40, and Plutarch's 
Life of Julius Caesar, chap. liv. ' One of his Dialogues,' De 
Finibus, v. 2. 

7. 5. Dryden often uses adjectives as adverbs. In this 
particular instance he had Shakespeare's example before him. 
See Henry VIII, iv. 2. 52 : 

Exceeding wise, fair-spoken, and persuading. 

['Very common in I7~i8th cent. ; now somewhat archaic' 
(New English Dictionary, which quotes Milton and Words 
worth). See p. 102, 'extream ignorant'; p. 75, 'extreme 

8. 15. The engagement between the English and Dutch 
fleets on June 3, 1665, took place off Harwich. In this 
memorable battle eighteen large Dutch ships were taken, 
and fourteen others were destroyed ; Opdam, the Dutch 
admiral, who engaged the Duke of York, was blown up 
beside him, and he and all his crew perished (M alone). See 
Annus Mirabilis, stanza 22, and Pepys' Diary for June 3, 
1665: '3 rd . 'All this day by all people upon the river, and 
almost everywhere else hereabout, were heard the guns, our 
two fleets for certain being engaged ; which was confirmed 
by letters from Harwich.' Considering the distance of 
Harwich from London (70 miles by train, of course less as 
the crow flies), this is an interesting statement. 

[9. 29. 'Who congratulated to the rest.' The instances 
given by the New English Dictionary of this obsolete con 
struction of the verb range from 1607 to 1710. They include 
the following from Dryden's dedication to his play of Aureng- 
zefe:'The subjects of England may justly congratulate to 
themselves . . . that both our Government and our King 
secure us from any such Complaint.'] 

ll. 5. This is probably a reference to the Act of 1664, 
commonly called the Conventicle Act, ' to prevent and sup 
press seditious and unlawful conventicles.' 
1 6. Cic. pro Archia, c. 10. 
21. Perhaps the writer first alluded to was Dr. Robert 


Wild, author of Iter Boreale, a panegyric on General Monk, 
published in April, 1660, and often reprinted ; which may be 
the 'famous poem' alluded to in p. 13. His works were 
collected and published in a small volume in 1668. The 
other poet may have been Richard Flecknoe. Both these 
poets celebrated the Dutch defeat (Malone). 

28. ' Catachresis ' is the improper or abusive use of 
a word. Cleveland (1613-1658), a ' metaphysical' poet, who 
abounded in far-fetched images and metaphors, was also the 
most vigorous satirist on the Cavalier side. Cf. pp. 35, 36, 
and the following from Cleveland's lines to the Lycidas of 
Milton (Mr. Edward King) : 

I like not tears in tune, nor do I prize 
His artificial grief, who scans his eyes. 

13. 2. Martial, Epigr. viii. 19. 

23. George Wither, probably because he was a Puritan 
and had risen to be major under Cromwell, was the mark fbr 
much malicious satire on the part of Tory and Royalist 
poets. They give him no credit for the lovely lyrical 
pieces which are for ever associated with his name. Butler 
(Hudibras, Part I, canto i), addressing the Puritanic muse, 
says : 

Thou that with ale, or viler liquors, 

Didst inspire Withers, Prynne, and Vickars. 

Dryden speaks contemptuously of him in the passage before 
us, and Pope in the Dunciad (i. 296) numbers 'wretched 
Withers ' among ' the dull of ancient days.' 

30. 'Auction by inch of Candle, is when, a piece of 
candle being lighted, people are allowed to bid while it 
burns, but as soon as extinct, the commodity is adjudged to 
the last bidder ' (Chambers' Dictionary). At land sales in 
France this practice is still in force. 

14. 6. Virgil, Eel. iii. 90. 

17. Petronius Arbiter, Satirae, cap. ii. 

15. 6. Hor. Epist. ii. I. 76. 
9. Ibid. 34. 

16. 9. 'Epic . . . way.' Whether Dryden meant to include 



Milton or to ignore him, it is in any case to be borne in 
mind that Paradise Lost was published in 1667, the year 
before the appearance of Dryden's Essay. 

20. * The drama is wholly ours.' Imitated from the 
phrase of Ouintilian, x. 93 : ' Satira quidem tota nostra est,' 
quoted by Dryden in his Original and Progress of Satire 

21. Malone rejects 'Eugenius his opinion* as 'un- 
grammatical phraseology,' but says, supporting himself on 
the authority of Bishop Lowth, that Dryden ought to have 
written 'Eugeniusis opinion.' [Cf. ' Augustus his palace, 5 
p. 36 ; ' Horace his art,' p. 20 ; and ' Sandys his translation,' 
p. 90. On the other hand, p. 23, Dryden has ' Terence's 
Eunuch,' and ' Chremes's sister'; evidently the usage was 
still unfixed. Still more was this the case a generation 
earlier, when in one and the same line (Discoveries, p. 133, 
Dent) Ben Jonson has * Achilles' armour' and 'Sophocles 
his Ajax? In the same way Ben Jonson has ' ass's hoof ' 
(Ode to Himself], and Milton has 'ass's jaw' (so in modern 
editions, but Milton himself spelt ' asses,' as also did Sidney 
at the end of his Apologie), but also ' Glaucus' spell.' ' In 
Early Modern English the apostrophe was at first intended 
only to show contraction of -es, and was accordingly used 
freely in the plural as well as the genitive inflexion. . . . 
The gradual restriction of the apostrophe to the genitive 
apparently arose from the belief that such a genitive as 
princes in the prince's book was a shortening of prince his, 
as shown by such spellings as the prince his book. This 
belief and this spelling arose very naturally from the fact 
that princes and prince his had the same sound, weak his 
having dropped its ' h ' in such collocations, even in the Old 
English period ' (Sweet, New English Grammar, i. 321). 
Matzner (English Grammar, English translation, i. 242-3) 
discusses the inflected Old-English forms in es, is, and ys, and 
on pp. 296-7 has the following about the 'his': * The con 
nexion of the possessive pronoun of the third person (his) 
with a substantive, especially a proper name, in the genitive, 


in which the inflection is then usually wanting, is peculiar : 
"In characters as red as Mars his heart" (Shakespeare, 
Troilus and Cressida, v. 2), "For Jesus Christ his sake" 
(English Liturgy). Strange to say, in the seventeenth 
century, as some English grammarians do even now, the 
s of the genitive was derived from this. . . . Although the 
subjoined pronoun in this case makes the inflection of the 
substantive superfluous, it is originally nothing else than 
a pleonastic repetition of the substantive notion by the 
pronoun, which is especially familiar to Old-English in the 
personal pronoun: "And there Sir Gawaine he her wed" 
(Percy Reliques). " The tanner he took his good cowhide " 

17: 26. It is not perfect, because it does not include a 
differentia, and is therefore too wide ; it is applicable to epic 
and heroic poems, and to romances, equally with plays. 
' It gives the general class (genere) to which a play belongs, 
and the end (fine) which it serves' (Ker). [Cf. p. 92, 1. 16 : 
'For though tragedy be justly preferred above the epic 
poem, yet there is a great affinity between them, as may 
easily be discovered in that definition of a play which 
Lisideius gave us. The genus of them is the same a just 
and lively image of human nature, in its actions, passions, 
and traverses of fortune : so is the end namely, for the 
delight and benefit of mankind.'] 

18. ii. See Veil. Paterc. i. 16: 'Una, neque multorum 
annorum spatio divisa, aetas, per divini spiritus viros, 
Aeschylum, Sophoclem, Euripidem, illustravit tragoedias : 
una priscam illam et veterem sub Cratino Aristophane et 
Eupolide comoediam.' For the construction of ' arrive ' with 
'to,' cf. p. 49, 1. 26. 

18, 19, 21. [* Philosophy '= natural science (cf. p. 26, 1. 25, 
and Original and Progress of Satire (ii. 34) :' Some 
thing new in philosophy and the mechanics is discovered 
almost every year') ; ' Virtuosi '= savants (the singular of the 
Italian word is used by Evelyn in his Diary, February 27, 
1644) ; ' school ' = Schoolmen (cf. p. 126, 1. 29).] 

NOTES. 139 

19. 14. Historia Romany i. 17. 

20. 7. [' Remember you.' This obsolete active use of 
the verb recurs, p. 97, 1. n, and Dedication of the Aeneis 
(ii. 1 88) : ' He does wisely to remember you that Virgil,' &c.] 

22. Aristotle's treatise on Poetry 'is a fragment, and 
while promising to treat of tragedy, comedy, and epic poetry, 
it treats only of tragedy, adding a few brief remarks on epic 
poetry, and omitting comedy altogether' (Encyc. Brit. 9th 
ed., art. ' Aristotle '). Ilepl K&fupdias varepov cpoC/zcp, wrote 
Aristotle (Poetics, vi. i), but the promise was not kept. 

25. ' The Three Unities.' The best recent discussion of 
the Unities is in Prof. Butcher's Aristotle's Theory of Poetry 
and Fine Art (1895), chap. vii. See especially p. 267 : 
' The only dramatic Unity enjoined by Aristotle is Unity of 
Action. It is strange that this should still need to be 
repeated. So inveterate, however, is a literary tradition, 
once it has been established under the sanction of high 
authority, that we still find the " Three Unities " spoken of 
in popular writings as a rule of the Poetics. ... If Unity of 
Action is preserved, the other unities will take care of them 
selves. Unity of Action is indeed in danger of being im 
paired by marked discontinuity of place or time. There are 
Spanish dramas in which the hero is born in Act i, and 
appears again on the scene as an old man at the close of the 
play. The missing spaces are almost of necessity filled in 
by the undramatic expedient of narrating what has occurred 
in the intervals. Yet even here all depends on the art of 
the dramatist. Years may elapse between successive acts 
without the unity being destroyed, as we see from The 
Winter's Tale (p. 276). ... French poets and writers on 
aesthetics did not derive their dramatic rules directly from 
the Greek models on which the Poetics of Aristotle are based. 
The French, having learnt their three Unities from Roman 
writers, then sought to discover for them Aristotelian authority. 
They committed a further and graver error. Instead of 
resting the minor Unities of Time and Place on Unity of 
Action, they subordinated Unity of Action to the observance 

of the other rules. The result not unfrequently was to com 
press into a space of twelve or twenty-four hours a crowded 
sequence of incidents and a series of mental conflicts, which 
needed ;.a fuller development. The natural course of the 
action was cut short, and the inner consistency of character 
violated. A similar result followed from the scrupulous pre 
cautions taken to avoid a change of scene. The characters, 
instead of finding their way to the place where dramatic 
motives would have taken them, were compelled to go else 
where, lest they should violate the Unities. The external 
rule was thus observed, but at the cost of that inward logic 
of character and events, which is prescribed by the Poetics. 
The failures and successes of the modern stage alike prove the 
truth of the Aristotelian principle, that Unity of Action is the 
higher and controlling law of the drama. The unities of Time 
and Place, so far as they can claim any artistic importance, 
are of secondary and purely derivative value' (pp. 278-9). 

23. I. [' Corneille calls la liaison des scenes? Cf. Corneille's 
Discours des Trois Unites'. ' La. liaison des scenes qui unit 
toutes les actions particulieres de chaque acte 1'une avec 
1'autre ' (p. 101 ' Grands Ecrivains ' edition). * Un acteur 
occupant une fois le theatre, aucun n'y doit entrer qui n'ait 
sujet de parler a lui. Surtout lorsqu'un acteur entre deux 
fois dans un acte, il doit absolument ou faire juger qu'il 
reviendra bientot quand il sort la premiere fois, ou donner 
raison en rentrant pourquoi il revient sitot ' (p. 109). Corneille, 
who bases himself upon Aristotle (raura de Set yi/eo-0ai e 
avTijs rrjs trvoTCKreais TOU pvdoV) coore e/c ro>v irpoyeyevrjuevaiv 
ffvpftauHtv 77 ( uvdyKTjs f) Kara TO ef/co? yiyvecrtiai raCra, Poetics 
x. 3), and Dryden in the above passage, evidently mean 
a good deal more than that mere avoidance of change of 
scene within an act, which is all that Dryden means by 
' continuity of scenes,' infra, p. 71 (cf. pp. 63-64).] 

1 8. See Ben Jonson's Discoveries, chap. 135, p. 131 of 
the 'Temple Classics' edition (Dent, 1898). 

25. [' There ought to be but one action, says Corneille.' 
* II n'y doit avoir qu'une action complete, qui laisse 1'esprit 

NOTES. 141 

de 1'auditeur dans le calme ; mais elle ne peut le devenir que 
par plusieurs autres imparfaites, qui lui servent d'achemine- 
ments, et tiennent cet auditeur dans une agre"able suspen 
sion ' (Discours des Trois Unites, p. 99).] 

24.17- ['Half-Menander.' In his<Lt/e of Terence, Suetonius, 
after quoting Cicero on the poet, goes on : 
Item C. Caesar : 

Tu quoque, tu in summis, o dimidiate Menander, 
Poneris, et merito, puri sermonis amator. 
Lenibus atque utinam scriptis adiuncta foret vis 
Comica, ut aequato virtus polleret honore 
Cum Graecis, neve in hac despectus parte iaceres. 
Unum hoc maceror ac doleo tibi deesse, Terenti. 

The * dimidiate ' is interpreted by Ritschl in the latest edition 
of Suetonius' fragments (Reifferscheid) as meaning that, 
while Menander was equally great as a delineator of fj6rj and 
of -rrddrj (i.e. of character and of passion ; see infra, p. 164), 
Terence had no command of passion and was a painter of 
rjdi) only. There is an industrious modern study of Menander, 
based on the fragments in Meineke's edition (there have 
been important additions from Egyptian papyri since), by 
Mr. J. Churton Collins in his Essays. What the Greeks 
felt about him may be gathered from the phrase of Plutarch 
that 'one could do better without wine than without 

1 8. 'Varius.' See Horace, Od. i. 6; Sat. i. 9. 23; 10. 
44; Ars Poetica, 55 ; Martial, viii. 18. 5. Nothing in Velleius. 

25. 4. Macrobius (c. end of fourth century A.D.) wrote 
Saturnalia and two books of commentaries on Cicero's 
Somnium Scipionis. Virgil is discussed in both at great 
length in the former. 

27. 9. Historia Romana, ii. 92. 

25. [The division which Dryden ascribes to Aristotle is 
not in Aristotle's Poetics, nor is it to be found in any extant 
Greek grammarian. The first known instance of it is in the 
tractate De tragoedia et comoedia, printed in Giles' Terence* 
p. xvi, and probably by the Latin grammarian Euanthius. 


It reappears in J. C. Scaliger's Poetice, i. 9, p. 36 of edition of 
1586: '"Protasis est in qua proponitur et narratur summa 
rei sine declaratione exitus . . . Epitasis in qua turbae aut 
excitantur aut intenduntur. Catastasis est vigor ac status 
fabulae, in qua res miscetur in ea fortunae tempestate in 
quam subducta est. Catastrophe, conversio negotii exagitati 
in tranquillitatem non expectatam.'] 

28. 2. [< The counter-turn.' Cf. p. 65. 3 : ' Any quick turns 
and counterturns of plot,' and Dryden's Notes on Rapin (in 
Johnson's Life of Dry den) : 'For the fable itself, 'tis in the 
English more adorned with episodes, and larger than in 
the Greek poets ; consequently more diverting. For if the 
action be but one, and that plain, without any counterturn of 
design or episode (i. e. underplot), how can it be so pleasing 
as the English, which have both underplot and a turned 
design, which keeps the audience in expectation of the 
catastrophe ? whereas in the Greek poets we see through 
the whole design at first.'] 

8. [In a brawling article on the first edition of this book 
(Nov. 24, 1894), the Saturday Review, not content with the 
discovery of a blunder in the editor's Englishing of Corneille's 
Polyeucte (though Corneille's Pompee was also Englished in the 
same line without evoking complaint, and though M. Beljame 
has Gallicized the titles of Dryden's and other English plays 
throughout his well-known book), has been bold enough to 
accuse Dryden himself of an ' amazing blunder on p. 28, where 
he identifies the \vans of a tragedy with the Catastrophe.' 
The only blunder is the Reviewer's. The passage in Aristotle 
(Poetics, xviii. i) runs thus in the best recent edition (By water) 
of the Greek : 'Eon fie irdarjs rpaycofitas TO (JLCV fito-ir TO fie 
\va-is, ra p.(v ea)$ej/ /cat eVia ra>v ecrudev iroXXaKis f) fie'cris, TO fie 
Xowrof T) \vffis Xe'ya> fie deaiv p.fv fivat TTJV OTT' dpxrjs 
TOVTOV rov /JLepovs 6 evxarov e'oriv e' ov peTafiaiveiv els 
Xiav . . . } \vaiv fie rf)v dirb rfjs dpxrjs TTJS /ueTa/3a<rea>? 
Te'Xou?, . . . TToXXoi fie 7rAearTff ev \vova-i /caKoos* SeZ fie a^i^xo 
del Kpareladai. Butcher translates as follows : ' Every tragedy 
falls into two parts Complication and Unravelling, or De* 

NOTES. 143 

nouement. Incidents extraneous to the action are frequently 
combined with a portion of the action proper to form the 
Complication ; the rest is the Unravelling. By the Compli 
cation I mean all that comes between the beginning of the 
action and the part which marks the turning-point from bad 
fortune to good (or good fortune to bad). The Unravelling 
is that which comes between the beginning of the change 
and the end. . . . Many poets tie the knot well, but unravel 
it ill. Both arts, however, should always be mastered.' 
Corneille translates SeVts and \v<ns by ncsud and de"noue- 
ment throughout. There can be no doubt in fact that \varis 
means denouement. But can denouement mean Catastrophe ? 
It would seem that the Reviewer denies that it can. He 
must mean that if he means anything. Apparently he has 
been misled by the geological connotation of the term, and 
imagines that in the language of the stage also it can only 
mean one overwhelming act the arrest of Cinna, for instance, 
but not the whole denouement, including both the arrest and 
the subsequent forgiveness. It is easy to show that it is not 
so. Johnson defines Catastrophe as 'the change or revolu 
tion which produces the conclusion and final event of 
a dramatic piece.' ' The denouement,' adds the New English 
Dictionary. ' The catastrophe or the denouement, writes 
J. A. Symonds (Ben Jonson, p. 89). Scaliger's definition is 
' Conversio negotii exagitati in tranquillitatem non ex- 
pectatam' clearly not an act, but a process. Corneille 
(Premier Discours) gives the title of 'Catastrophe' to Cly- 
temnestra's murder of her husband with impunity. The 
* impunement ' shows that it is the whole denouement he has 
in view. Still more plainly does this appear from the in 
junction to keep back ' all the catastrophe ' for the fifth act. 
That phrase, 'toute la catastrophe,' is conclusive as to Cor- 
neille's interpretation of the word. The usage of Ben Jonson 
(Magnetic Lady, Interlude between first and second act) is 
similar : ' Do you look, Master Damplay, for conclusions in 
a protasis ? I thought the law of comedy had reserved them 
to the catastrophe.'] 

ble to 


23. Horace's line is : 

'Neve minor, neu sit quinto productior actu.' 
Ars Poet. 189. Horace lays it down as a rule applicable to 
allplays, not comedies only. 

29. The term 'Jornada' was introduced into Spain by 
the dramatist Naharro early in the sixteenth century. It is 
equivalent to day's work, or day's journey. * The old French 
mysteries were divided into journees or portions, each of 
which could conveniently be represented in the time given 
by the Church to such entertainments on a single day. One 
of the mysteries in this way required forty days for its 
exhibition ' (Ticknor, Spanish Literature, i. 270, note). [The 
term therefore did not originally mean Act ; but Naharro 
divided his comedies into five jornadas, and with the 
Spanish dramatists of the next generation the rule was 
three. In his Troisttme Discours, Corneille says of the 
number of acts: 'Aristote n'en prescrit point le nombre ; 
Horace le borne a cinq ; et, bien qu'il defende d'y en mettre 
moins, les Espagnols s'opiniatrent a 1'arreter a trois, et les 
Italiens font souvent la meme chose.' In a note to this 
passage Voltaire, who was bound to find a reason for every 
thing, found a reason for five acts : ' Cinq actes nous 
paraissent ne'cessaires : le premier expose le lieu de la scene, 
la situation des heVos de la piece, leurs inte'rets, leurs mceurs, 
leurs desseins ; le second commence 1'intrigue ; elle se noue 
au troisieme : le quatrieme prepare le denoument, qui se fait 
au cinquieme. Moins de temps pre'cipiterait trop Faction; 
plus d'dtendue 1'enerverait.' As to three acts, in the Preface 
to his Albion and Albanius (i. 279), Dryden says : ' It 
is divided, according to the plain and natural method of 
every nation, into three parts. For even Aristotle himself is 
contented to say simply that in all actions there is a beginning, 
a middle, and an end; after which model all the Spanish 
plays are built.'] 

29. 7. TO p.vd6s. This is a singular slip; it should of 
course be 6 pv0os. 

15. ['Talkative Greeklings.' Juvenal, iii. 78:' Omnia 

NOTES. 145 

novit Graeculus esuriens ; in caelum, iusseris, ibit.' Cicero, 
de Orat. i. 22, 102: ' Tanquam alicui Graeculo otioso loquaci.' 
Ben Jonson, Discoveries, p. 123 (Temple Classics): 'I am 
not of that opinion to conclude a poet's liberty within the 
narrow limits of laws which either the grammarians or 
philosophers prescribe. . . . Which of the Greeklings durst 
ever give precepts to Demosthenes ? '] 

28. * Good cheap ' is meant for a literal translation of 
bon marche 1 . Cp. Florio's Montaigne, bk. ii, chap. 12: 
* The men that serve us do it better cheap. 3 

30. 9. Terence, Andria, iii. i. 1 5. 

13. l Machine.' [The dens ex machind, who was let down 
upon the stage in a chariot or some such contrivance, in 
order to save the situation at the critical moment. Frequent 
in Euripides. See the last line of the passage from the 
Prologue to Jonson's Every Man in his Humour, quoted in 
the note to p. 62, 1. 9 : 

Nor creaking throne comes down the boys to please. 

' Ces de'nouments par des dieux de machine sont fort fr- 
quents chez les Grecs,' writes Corneille (Second Discours). 
And again : * Dans le denoument, je trouve deux choses 
a eViter, le simple changement de volonte', et la machine. . . . 
La machine n'a pas plus d'adresse quand elle ne sert qu'a 
faire descendre un dieu pour accommoder toutes choses, sur 
le point que les acteurs ne savent plus comment les terminer ' 
(Troisieme Discours). 'Oh, how convenient,' says Dryden 
(Dedication of the Aeneis, ii. 189), 'is a machine some 
times in a heroic poem. This of Mercury is plainly one.' 
Again (ibid. 190) : 'Of Venus and Juno, Jupiter and Mercury, 
I say nothing ; for they were all machining work.' Once more 
(ibid. 211): 'As for the death of Aruns, who was shot by 
a goddess, the machine was not altogether so outrageous as 
the wounding Mars and Venus by the sword of Diomede.'] 

31. 20. Scaliger, Poet. vi. 3, p. 768 (ed. 1586): 'Hoc 
primum obiiciebant : alterum hoc. Vasta, inquiunt, et hians, 
atque inanis Comoedia est ; tota namque intercedit nox. 


Nam per initia cenam curant ; postea Chremes ait, lucestit. 
Sane igitur abiit nox. Haec est illorum obiectio : quam sic 
diluimus Datam actamque fabulam ludis Megalensibus. 
Itaque dimidium fabulae actum vesperi ; noctem transactam 
ludis : alterum dimidium reliquum sub lucem : unam igitur 
quasi duas.' Sidney, Apologie, p. 64 (Arber), repeats this 
explanation, but in mistake substitutes the Eunuchus for the 
Heautontimorumenos : * Yet will some bring in an example 
of Eunuchus in Terence, that contained! matter of two days. 
. . . True it is, and so was it to be played in two days, and so 
fitted to the time it set forth.'] 

24. The Supplices. * This is all from Corneille, Troisieme 
Discours* (Ker). [For the occasion and the subject-matter 
of these famous Discourses, see Corneille's letter to the Abbe 
de Pure Aug. 25, 1660 (x. 485 of the 'Grands Ecrivains' 
edition) : 

'Je suis a la fin d'un travail fort penible sur une matiere fort 
delicate. J'ai traite en trois prefaces les principales questions de 
Tart poetique sur mes trois volumes de comedies. J'y ai fait quel- 
ques explications nouvelles d'Aristote, et avance quelques proposi 
tions et quelques maximes inconnues a nos anciens. J'y refute celles 
sur lesquelles 1' Academic a fonde la condamnation du .Cid, et ne 
suis pas d'accord avec M. d'Aubignac de tout le bien meme qu'il 
a dit de moi. Quand cela paraitra, je ne doute point qu'il ne donne 
matiere aux critiques : prenez un peu ma protection. Ma premiere 
preface examine si 1'utilite ou le plaisir est le but de la poesie 
dramatique ; de quelles utllites elle est capable, et quelles en sont 
les parties, tant integrates, comme le sujet et les mceurs, que de 
quantite, comme le prologue, 1'episode et 1'exode. Dans la seconde, 
je traite des conditions du sujet de la belle tragedie ; de quelle 
qualite doivent etre les incidents qui la composent, et les personnes 
qu'on y introduit, afin d' exciter la pitie et la crainte ; comment se 
fait la purgation des passions par cette pitie et cette crainte, et des 
moyens de traiter les choses selon le vraisemblable ou le necessaire. 
Je parle, en la troisieme, des trois unites : d'action, de jour et de 
lieu. Je crois qu'apres cela il n'y a plus guere de question d'im- 
portance a remuer, et que ce qui reste ,n'est que la broderie qu'y 
peuvent ajouter la rhetorique, la morale et la politique. . . . Vous n'y 
trouverez pas grande elocution ni grande doctrine; mais, avec tout 

NOTES. 147 

cela, j'avoue que ces trois prefaces m'ont plus coute que n'auraient 
fait trois pieces de theatre. J'oubliais de vous dire que je ne prends 
d'exemples modernes que chez moi.' 

All three Discourses were published for the first time in 1660, 
and were consequently quite fresh in people's minds when 
Dryden composed his Essay.] 

32. 10. [Corneille in the Trois&me Discours. After the 
reference to Euripides, which Dryden has almost literally 
translated, Corneille goes on : ' C'est assez bien employe" un 
temps si court.' Employ 6 is the reading of all the editions 
published in Corneille's lifetime.] 

33. 2. This reference to Terence comes from Corneille, 
Discours des Trois Unites, p. 102. 

34. 14. The satyr-drama of the Cyclops, by Euripides, 
a kind of farce, is the only specimen remaining to us of 
a form of theatrical entertainment to which all the Greek 
tragedians had recourse in order to relieve the mental tension 
consequent on witnessing the performance of a long tragedy. 
There are elements of comic treatment in the Alcestis and 
even in the Antigone. [In an interesting letter to Goethe 
(ii. 98 of the English translation of their Correspondence) 
Schiller complains of 'a kind of playfulness in the serious 
dialogues of Sophocles.' In a defence of Tragi-comedy pub 
lished in 1648, Ogier relied chiefly on the Cyclops, which he 
described as * une tragi-come'die pleine de raillerie et de vin, 
de satyres et de silenes d'un cote, de sang et de rage de Poly- 

*pheme eborgne de 1'autre.'] 

35. 6. Ter. Eunuchus^ act ii. sc. I. 17, 18. 

1 6. Our author has quoted from memory. The lines 
are, At nostri proavz, etc., and afterwards, Ne dicam stulte 
mirati (Malone). Hor. A. P. 270. 

23. Hor. A. P. 70. 

25. Cleveland. See pp. ii, 136. 

28. Catachresis ; see above, p. II, 136. 

29. Virg. Eel. iv. 20. 

36. 4. Virg. Aen. viii. 91. 

8. Ovid, Met. i. 175; and (below) ib. 561. Malone says 
L 2 


that the true reading is pompae, and this is adopted in 
Burmann's edition ; but longas . . . pampas occurs in the 
best MSS., and is printed by all recent editors. Malone 
also points out that in the preceding quotation, for verbo 
we should read verbis, and for metuam summt, timeam 

31. From The Rebel Scot, by Cleveland, 1. 61. 

37. i. Juv. Sat. x. 123. 

5. From Cleveland's Rupertismus, 39-40. 'White 
powder ' is arsenic. 

25. Ovid, Tristia, ii. 381. 

30. Our author (as Dr. Johnson has observed) might 
have determined this question upon surer evidence, for it 
(Medea) is quoted by Quintilian (ix. 2. 8) as Seneca's, and 
the only line which remains of Ovid's play, for one line is 
left us, is not found there (Malone). Ovid's line, cited by 
Quintilian (viii. 5. 6), as stronger and more impressive than 
the .adage Nocere facile est, prodesse difficile, is Servare 
potui; perdere an passim rogas? [Elsewhere Quintilian 
(x. i. 98) says of Ovid's play : ' Ovidii Medea videturmihi 
ostendere quantum ille vir praestare potuerit, si ingenio suo 
imperare quam indulgere maluisset.' For the dramatic 
character of Ovid's genius see Dryden's Preface to Annus 
Mirabilis (i. 15, 16).] 

38. 20. Juv. Sat. vi. 195. 

39. 17. Virg. Aen. i. 378 ; parts of two lines. 
28. Hor. Sat. x. 68. 

40. 3. Horace, Epist. ii. i. 49. 

41. 10. Pierre Corneille was born at Rouen in 1606, and 
produced his first play, M elite, a comedy, in 1625. 

22. Aristotle, Poetics, v. 8. 

42. 19. [' 'Tis a drama of our own invention.' The assertion 
is, of course, incorrect. The Tragi-comedy was the specific 
Spanish form. The most noted example was La Celestina, 
a play of great length, extending to twenty-one acts, and 
produced between 1480 and 1490. Fernando Rojas was the 
author of all but the first act. France adopted the form from 

NOTES. 149 

Spain, and was rated by Voltaire in the following terms for 
doing so : 

' Lorsque Corneille donna Le CM, les Espagnols avaient, sur tons 
les theatres de 1'Europe, la meme influence que dans les affaires 
publiques. ... II est vrai que, dans presque toutes ces tragedies 
espagnoles, il y avait toujours quelques scenes de bouffonneries. Get 
usage infecta 1'Angleterre. II n'y a guere de tragedies de Shake 
speare ou Ton ne trouve des plaisanteries d'hommes grossiers a cote 
du sublime des heros. A quoi attribuer une mode si extravagante 
et si honteuse pour 1'esprit humain qu'a la coutume des princes 
memes qui entretenaient toujours des bouffons aupres d'eux ; coutume 
digne des barbares, qui sentaient le besoin des plaisirs de 1'esprit, et 
qui etaient incapables d'en avoir ; coutume meme qui a dure jusqu'a 
nos temps, lorsqu'on en reconnaissait la turpitude ? Jamais ce vice 
n'avilit la scene fran9aise ; il se glissa seulement dans nos premiers 
operas, qui, n'etant pas des ouvrages reguliers, semblaient permettre 
cette indecence ; mais bientot 1'elegant Quinault purgea 1'opera de 
cette bassesse. Quoi qu'il en soit, on se piquait alors de savoir 
1'espagnol, comme on se fait honneur aujourd'hui de parler fran9ais. 
C'etait la langue des cours de Vienne, de Baviere, de Bruxelles, de 
Naples et de Milan : la Ligue 1'avait introduite en France, et le 
mariage de Louis XIII avec la fille de Philippe III avait tellement 
mis 1'espagnol a la mode qu'il etait alors presque honteux aux gens 
de lettres de 1'ignorer. La plupart de nos comedies etaient imitees 
du theatre de Madrid.' (Preface Historique dc Voltaire sur le Cid, 

Martinenche (La Comedie espagnole en France, 1900) 
quotes several Spanish pleas in favour of the Tragi-comedy, 
and even suggests that it paved the way in France for the 
genius of Moliere, 'qui n'est peut-etre si grand que parce qu'il 
a tire' son plus haut comique de la plus tragique des matieres'; 
but he also admits the really vital objection to the Tragi 
comedy, or rather to its abuse. 

'Nous pouvons admettre (p. 123), si special soit-il, le role du 
gracioso, mais comment supporter qu'au beau milieu de la plus 
tragique situation il lance une grossiere plaisanterie ? Argensola 
(1634) le remarquait avec raison, c'est le meilleur moyen de gater 
une noble emotion. On a le droit, dans une meme ceuvre, de faire 
appel a des tonalites differentes, mais si on ne les fait point hurler 


ensemble, si on les fond par des transitions insensibles en une savante 

In the same strain Dryden writes at a later period (Parallel 
of Poetry and Painting, ii. 146) : 

' The Gothic manner, and the barbarous ornaments, which are to 
be avoided in a picture, are just the same with those in an ill-ordered 
play. For example, our English tragi -comedy must be confessed to 
be wholly Gothic, notwithstanding the success which it has found 
upon our theatre, and in the Pastor Fido of Guarini ; even though 
Corisca and the Satyr contribute somewhat to the main action. 
Neither can I defend my Spanish Friar, as fond as otherwise I am 
of it, from this imputation : for though the comical parts are 
diverting, and the serious moving, yet they are of an unnatural 
mingle : for mirth and gravity destroy each other, and are no more 
to be allowed for decent than a gay widow laughing in a mourning 

Addison does little but repeat this passage in the 4oth 

28. The Red Bull, in St. John's Street, was one of the 
meanest of our ancient theatres, and was famous for enter 
tainments adapted to the taste of the lower orders of the 
people (Malone). In Strype's edition of Stow's London 
there is a plan of the parish of St. James, Clerkenwell, on 
which is marked ' Red Bull Yard,' between St. John's Street 
and Clerkenwell Green. This must have been the site of the 
theatre. The ground formerly belonged to the priory of St. 
John at Jerusalem; and it is not unlikely that, as Shakespeare 
and his company turned the ruinous buildings of the Black- 
friars, near St. Paul's, to account for a theatre, the patrons of 
the Red Bull made a similar use of the monastic ruins at 
Clerkenwell. In his Annals of the Stage (iii. 324) Mr. 
Collier collects a number of notices, more or less interesting, 
of the Red Bull Theatre. Wither, in his Satires, Randolph in 
his Muses' Looking Glass, and Prynne in the Histriomastix, 
all make mention of it. It was pulled down not long after 
the Restoration, and Drury Lane was regarded as having 
taken its place. 

NOTES. 151 

29. Hor. Epist. ii. I. 185. Horace wrote: 

Si discordet eques, media inter carmina poscunt 
Aut ursum aut pugiles. 

31. ['Admiration.' Aristotle says nothing of admiration. 
The famous words are (Poetics, 6. 2) : 6Y e'Aeou KCU <ooi/ 
irepaivovo-a TTJV T>V TOIOVTCOV -rradrjfMTOtv Kadap(riv, ' through pity 
and fear effecting the proper purgation of these emotions ' 
(Butcher, after Bernays and Weil). In his Notes on Rapin, 
Dryden argues that 'it may admit of doubt whether pity and 
terror are either the prime, or at least the only ends cf 
tragedy. 'Tis not enough that Aristotle had said so ; for 
Aristotle drew his models from Sophocles 1 and Euripides ; 
and if he had seen ours might have changed his mind. . . . 
If then the encouragement of virtue and discouragement of 
vice be the proper ends of poetry in tragedy, pity and terror, 
though good means, are not the only. For all the passions, 
in their turns, are to be set in a ferment ; as joy, anger, love, 
fear are to be used as the poet's commonplaces ; and 
a general concernment for the principal actors is to be 
raised, by making them appear such in the characters, their 
words and actions, as will interest the audience in their 
fortunes.' It is remarkable that Dryden anticipated the 
pathological explanation of Catharsis, which, since Bernays, 
has been accepted by almost all good authorities; and it 
would be still more remarkable if Dryden had not been 
himself anticipated by Milton 1 (in the Preface to Samson 
Agonistes], who was himself anticipated by at least one 
seventeenth-century Italian, and by Corneille (see the letter 
to the Abbe de Pure quoted on p. 145). In the Dedication 
to the Aeneis (ii. 258) he writes: 'To raise, and after 
wards to calm the passions to purge the soul from pride by 
the examples of human miseries, which befall the greatest 
in few words, to expel arrogance and introduce compassion 

1 See Prof. Bywater's interesting article on Milton and the Aristo 
telian Definition of Tragedy' in the Journal of Philology for 1901, 
xxvii. 267. 


(to "remove pride and hard-heartedness," ibid. 166), are the 
great effects of tragedy.' As for ' admiration,' Dryden else 
where seems to regard it as the peculiar effect and object of 
the epic. In the Dedication of Examen Poeticnm (ii. 12) 
he writes : ' Yet I must needs say this in reference to 
Homer, that he is much more capable of exciting the manly 
passions than those of grief and pity. To cause admiration 
is indeed the proper and adequate design of an Epic Poem ; 
and in that he has excelled even Virgil.' And in A Parallel 
of Poetry and Painting (ii. 243) : ' The hero ... is the 
chief object of pity in the drama, and of admiration in the 
epic poem.' Sidney, however, whose Apologie Dryden often 
had in mind, had written (Arber, p. 65) : ' A Comedy should 
be full of delight, as the Tragedy should be still maintained 
in a well-raised admiration.'] 

43. 13. Hor. Ars Poet. 240. 
22. Ibid. 151. 

28. Dryden here used * success' in the sense of the 
Spanish suceso, which means * event,' or ' issue.' [See his 
Original and Progress of Satire (ii. 51): 'This was the 
subject of the tragedy ; which, being one of those that end 
with a happy event, is therefore, by Aristotle, judged below 
the other sort, whose success is unfortunate.'] 

31. Justin, who probably lived in the age of the Antonines, 
abridged the Universal History of Pompeius Trogus, a 
contemporary of Livy. The reference here is to Justin, i. 8 
(* the true Cyrus in Justin,' Sidney, Apologie (Arber, p. 36). 

44. 3. The writers from whom we learn the story of Cyrus 
are (besides Justin) Herodotus, Ctesias, and Xenophon. Of 
these Herodotus, as living nearest to the time, is the most 
trustworthy. The Cyropaedia of Xenophon ('the feigned 
Cyrus of Xenophon,' Sidney, ibid.) is an historical romance, 
nor does the writer himself pretend that it is anything more. 
Herodotus makes Cyrus, when advanced in years, invade the 
country of the Massagetae, whose queen was Tomyris, and 
lose his life in battle. 

21. Hor. Ars Poet. 188. 

NOTES. 153 

25. Hesiod, Theog. 27 ; Homer, Od. xix. 203. 

45. 12. 'Spanish plots.' The chief adaptations from the 
Spanish drama were Elvira, or the worst not always True, by 
a Person of Quality (the Earl of Bristol), 1667, from Calderon, 
No siempre lo Peor es cierto ; and the Adventures of Five 
Hours, 1663, by Sir Samuel Tuke, from Los Empenos de 
seis Horas, attributed to Calderon. Lord Bristol made two 
other versions from Calderon, which are not extant (Ker). 
[The plot of Calderon's Mock Astrologer (El A sir 6 logo Fin- 
gido] was borrowed by Thomas Corneille, and from him by 
Dryden for his play of that name. But the debt of England, 
and of Europe generally, to the Spanish stage chiefly 
through the medium of France is by no means limited to 
these instances. Martinenche quotes Chappuzeau (1674) as 
saying : * Les Frangais ont su tenir le milieu entre les 
Italiens et les Espagnols, et par un heureux temperament se 
former un caractere universel qui s'eloigne dgalement des 
deux exces. Mais au fond nous sommes plus obliges aux 
Espagnols'; and then goes on (p. 425) : 

' Les Italiens ne nous ont enseigne que leurs lazzi superficiels et la 
fantaisie licencieuse de leurs intrigues. Les Espagnols ne se sont 
pas contentes de fournir de sujets et de scenes 1'imagination creatrice 
de nos grands poetes dramatiques. Us nous ont veritablement ouvert 
le chemin du theatre moderne en nous tevelant les kernels ressorts 
de la tragedie et de la comedie. Certes leur conception de 1'amour 
et de 1'honneur tenait trop a la mode de leur pays et participait a la 
cruaute et a 1'ardeur speciales de leurs moeurs. Mais Corneille 
n'aurait peut-etre pas confu sans eux son superbe drame de la 
volonte, et Moliere n'a pas eu a se repentir d' avoir cherche apres 
eux le rire a la meme source que les pleurs.' See note to 55. 9.] 

15. The Bloody Brother, also called The Tragedy of 
Rollo Duke of Normandy, by John Fletcher, was first 
printed in 1639. The plot is taken from the fourth book of 
Herodian ; it is Roman imperial history transferred to new 
. times, places, and persons ; Caracalla and Geta become 
Rollo and Otto. See A. W. Ward's Dramatic Literature, 


26. ' Oleo,' or ' oglio,' is a corruption of olla in olla 


podrida, a Spanish dish consisting of a stew of several kinds 
of meat and vegetables. Oleo, therefore, means a mess or 
mixture. Cf. Original and Progress of Satire (ii. 104) : 
' That olla, or hotch-potch, which is properly a satire.' 

47. 3. Dryden appears to have borrowed this word from 
Corneille, who speaks (Rodog. Exam.) of a ' personnage 
protatique,' i. e. an introductory character ; it stands for the 
Greek nporaTiKov irpoawTrov, which Donatus in his preface to 
the Andria of Terence represents in Latin by ' protatica 
persona.' [' Pour ouvrir son sujet Terence a introduit une 
nouvelle sorte de personnages qu'on a appele"s protatiques, 
parce qu'ils ne paraissent que dans la protase, ou se doit faire 
la proposition et 1'ouverture du sujet ' (Corneille, Discours 
du Poeme Dramatique, p. 46). See note to 27. 25.] 

7. [' Interessed.' Cf. Original and Progress of Satire 
(ii. 33) : * Without interessing Heaven in the quarrel.' 
Parallel of Poesy and Painting (ii. 130) : 'By which he 
gained the hearts of a great nation to interess themselves 
for Rome against Carthage.' The same French spelling 
(showing that the word was still comparatively novel) recurs 
in Dryden's text in the Preface to Albion and Albanius 
(i.279) and the Dedication of the Aeneis (ii. 191). There 
is an earlier use of the form in Daniel's Defence of Rhyme 
fGrosart's edition of Daniel's complete works, iii. 34, 37). 
Dryden uses the ordinary modern spelling, p. 124, 1. 7, 
unless indeed the editors have been at work, as they have 
in the Preface to Dryden's Religio Laid, where 'nothing 
interessed in that dispute ' was regularly printed ' interested ' 
till the arrival on the scene of Mr. Christie. In Religio 
'Laid itself, 1. 333 

When general, old, disinteressed, and clear, 

the editors, including even Scott, have destroyed the metre 
by printing ' disinterested ' for ' disinteressed.'] 

25. ['Ten or twenty years ago.' See Corneille, Discours 
des Trois Unite's, pp. 104-105 : 'J'ajoute un conseil, de 
s'embarrasser le moins qu'il lui est possible de choses 

NOTES. 155 

arrivees avant 1'action qui se repre'sente. Ces narrations' 
(observe this word Englished above, 1. 6) ' importunent 
d'ordinaire, parce qu'elles ne sont pas attendues, et qu'elles 
genent 1'esprit de 1'auditeur, qui est oblige* de charger sa 
me'moire de ce qui s'est fait dix ou douze ans auparavant, 
pour comprendre ce qu'il voit representer ; mais celles qui 
se font des choses qui arrivent et se passent derriere le 
theatre, depuis 1'action commence'e, font toujours un meilleur 
effet, parce qu'elles sont attendues avec quelque curiosite, et 
font partie de cette action qui se represented] 

48. 2. [' Fight prizes.' In Scott's Woodstock, chap, xiv, 
General Harrison is made to say : ' I have been accounted 
a master of fence, and have fought prizes when I was un- 
regenerated.' The New English Dictionary also quotes 
Browning, Paracelsus, iv. 119, * while we fight the prize.'] 

4. [Cf. Sidney's Apologie (Arber, p. 63) in an argument 
for Unity of Place : ' Now ye shall have three Ladies walk 
to gather flowers, and then we must believe the stage to be 
a Garden. By and by we hear news of shipwreck in the 
same place, and then we are to blame if we accept it not 
for a Rock. Upon the back of that comes out a hideous 
Monster, with fire and smoke, and then the miserable 
beholders are bound to take it for a Cave. While in the 
meantime two Armies fly in, represented with four swords 
and bucklers, and then what hard heart will not receive it for 
a pitched field ? '] 

23. ['Than all the actor can insinuate into us.' Cf. 
p. 61: 'Whether custom has so insinuated itself into our 
countrymen.' Charles Lamb, who knew his Dryden well, 
has taken over this verb from our author in a well-known 
passage: 'The actor must pronounce [these profound 
sorrows, &c.] ore rotunda, he must accompany them with 
his eye, he must insinuate them into his auditory by some 
trick of eye, tone, or gesture, or he fails' (On the Tragedies 
of Shakspere, p. 256).] 

49. 19. [' Corneille says judiciously.' ' Le poete n'est pas 
tenu d'exposer a la vue toutes les actions particulieres qui 


amenent a la principale : il doit choisir celles qui lui sont les 
plus avantageuses a faire voir, soit par la beaut du spectacle, 
soit par 1'eclat et la vehemence des passions qu'elles pro- 
duisent, soit par quelque autre agrement qui leur soit 
attache', et cacher les autres derriere la scene, pour les 
faire connaitre au spectateur, ou par une narration, ou par 
quelque autre adresse de 1'art ' (Discours des Trots Unites, 
p. 100).] 

50. 13. Hor. A. P. 180-7. Horace writes ' Ne pueros': 
a line is omitted after ' trucidet.' 

25. The reference is to act iii. sc. i. 2, of Jonson's 
comedy of The Magnetic Lady. 

51. 9. The title of this play, the joint work of Beaumont 
and Fletcher, and first acted in 1611, was A King and no 
King. In the last act, Gobryas, a noble, reveals to Arbaces, 
king of Illyria, that he is really his son, and not the son of 
Arane, the queen mother; Arbaces, thus become a subject 
and ' no King,' marries Panthea, the true heir to the throne, 
and all ends happily. 

22. 'Simple change of will.' See the passage from 
Corneille's Third Discourse, quoted on p. 145, note to 30. 
13, and the following from the First Discourse, pp. 27-28 : 
' Nous devons toutefois prendre garde que ce consentement ' 
(of parents to the marriage of lovers) ' ne vienne pas par un 
simple changement de volonte, mais par un evenement qui 
en fournisse 1'occasion. Autrement il n'y aurait pas grand 
artifice au denouement d'une piece, si, apres 1'avoir soutenue 
durant quatre actes sur 1'autorite d'un pere qui n'approuve 
point les inclinations amoureuses de son fils ou de sa fille, il 
y consentait tout d'un coup au cinquieme, par cette seule 
raison que c'est le cinquieme, et que 1'auteur n'oserait en 
faire six. II faut un effort considerable qui 1'y oblige, 
comme si 1'amant de sa fille lui sauvait la vie en quelque 
rencontre ou il fut pret d'etre assassine par ses ennemis, 
ou que par quelque accident inespere' il fut reconnu pour 
etre de plus grande condition et mieux dans la fortune qu'il 
ne paraissait.'] 

NOTES. 157 

52. 2. The Scornful Lady, a joint play of Beaumont and 
Fletcher, was produced some time before 1609. 'The sudden 
conversion of the usurer Morecraft is imitated from the 
Adelphi of Terence, where the same change takes place in 
the character of Demea* (Dyce). See Ward's Dramatic 
Literature, ii. 668. 

28. [' II faut, s'il se peut, y rendre raison de I'entre'e et 
de la sortie de chaque acteur ; surtout pour la sortie je tiens 
cette regie indispensable, et il n'y a rien de si mauvaise grace 
qu'un acteur qui se retire du theatre seulement parce qu'il 
n'a plus de vers a dire.' Corneille, Discours des Trois 

53. 19. Velleius Paterculus, i. 17. 

54. 17. The Menteur of Corneille (see Geruzez, Lit. 
Franqaise, ii. 90) was founded on one of the chefs-d'oeuvre 
of the Spanish stage, the Truth itself Suspected (La Verdad 
Suspechosd] of Ruiz de Alarcon. It appeared in 1642. 
Corneille himself wrote of it : * Ce n'est ici qu'une copie 
d'un excellent original.' 

55. 5. Cardinal Richelieu died in 1642. 

9. The Knight of the Burning Pestle and Double 
Marriage of Beaumont and Fletcher, which are founded on 
two of Cervantes' novels, are cases in point. Middleton's 
Spanish Gipsy is from Cervantes (Ker). 

II. The Adventures of Five Hours, written by Sir 
Samuel Tuke, and printed in 1663. Diego is a character in 
it (Malone). See note to 45. 12. 

56. 6. ' Contraries are the two most opposite qualities 
of the same class of subjects, e. g. black and white, as colours 
of bodies ; virtue and vice, as habits of the soul' (Mansel's 
Artis Logicae Rudimenta, 19). 

57. 4. The doctrine of the primum mobile belongs to the 
Ptolemaic astronomy, which made the sun and stars revolve 
round the earth. ' In the old astronomy the sphere beyond 
the sphere of the Fixed Stars, which gives to the eight lower 
spheres their diurnal motion from east to west ' (Ker). 

58. 12. Cinna, or the Clemency of Augustus, produced 


in 1639, is generally allowed to be Corneille's finest tragedy. 
[Corneille himself wrote of it in his Troisieme Discours\ 
' Une des raisons qui donne tant d'illustres suffrages a Cinna 
pour le mettre au-dessus de ce que j'ai fait, c'est qu'il n'y 
a aucnne narration du passe,' &c. ; and in a note to the 
same Discours Voltaire says : ' II y a quelques defauts de 
style dans Cinna ; on y a decouvert aussi quelques fautes 
dans la conduite et dans les sentiments : mais en general 
il y regne une si noble simplicity, tant de naturel, tant de 
clarte, le style a tant de beaut^s, qu'on lira toujours cette 
piece avec interet et avec admiration.'] On the Pompee, 
see the note on p. 130. The Polyeucte,-*. story of Christian 
martyrdom referring to the persecution of the Emperor 
Decius, appeared in 1640. The author's ' Examen ' on this 
play is of great interest. 

59. II. ['Chace, of wit.' Apparently from the quick 
volleys and returns of the game of tennis, in which ' chase ' 
is a familiar technical term ; see the New English 

60. 10. The Maid's Tragedy is by Beaumont and Fletcher; 
the other plays here mentioned are by Ben Jonson. 

61. 1 6. The Andromede, from the gorgeousness of its 
mythological mise-en-scene, bore some resemblance to the 
masque, while from the use of recitative and the intro 
duction of many songs it approached the modern opera. 
Among the ' dramatis personae ' there were only ten human 
beings against twelve gods and goddesses. The opening 
scene showed a huge mountain, pierced by a grotto, through 
which appeared the sea; Melpomene entered on one side, 
and the Sun on the other, in a ' char tout lumineux,' drawn 
by four horses. 

31. In the north of Etruria, about 180 miles from Rome. 
See p. 122, 1. 12. 

62. 9. There is no passage in Ben Jonson's works in 
which he directly censures Shakespeare for the non- 
observance of the unities of Time and Place. Dryden can 
only refer to the Prologue to Every Man in his Humour. 

NOTES. 159 

This Prologue first appeared in 1616, and its intended 
application to Shakespeare may well have been traditionally 
known in the theatrical world fifty years later. In it Jonson, 
among the ' ill customs of the age ' which he will not imitate, 

To make a child now swaddled to proceed 

Man, and then shoot up, in one beard and weed, 

Past threescore years; or, with three rusty swords, 

And help of some few foot and half-foot words, 

Fight over York and Lancaster's long jars, 

And in the tyring-house bring wounds to scars. 

He rather prays you will be pleased to see 

One such to-day, as other plays should be ; 

Where neither chorus wafts you o'er the seas, 

Nor creaking throne comes down the boys to please, &c. 

Other dramatists may have been included in the censure ; 
but it seems clear that Shakespeare was principally intended, 
the three parts of whose Henry VI (assuming Shakespeare's 
responsibility for all of them) extend over the events of 
nearly fifty years, including the whole of l York and Lan 
caster's long jars,' whose Perdita is born and grows up to 
be a woman between the first and fifth acts, and who makes 
the Chorus in The Winters Tale say the play having begun 

in Sicily 

imagine me, 

Gentle spectators, that I now may be 
In fair Bohemia. 

64. 4. Thomas Corneille's (the younger) L' Amour d la 
Mode (1651), Englished in 1675 as The Amorous Gallant, or 
Love in Fashion (Ker). 

19. A servant in Sir Samuel Tuke's Adventures of 
Five Hours, who is described by the author as 'a great 
coward, and a pleasant droll.' [Philipin is a common name 
for the comic servant in French imitations from the Spanish. 
The type of the gracioso was taken over by these imitators, 
and Diego, his regular name in the Spanish originals, became 
Philipin. 'Les "graciosos" et les "graciosas" sont des 
types qu'on ne peut pas transporter tels quels sur la scene 


trangere. Mais ils sont autrement modernes et complexes 
que les esclaves antiques ou les serviteurs de la come'die 
italienne, et quand on les depouillera de leur enveloppe 
espagnole ils auront plus d'une legon a donner a nos valets 
etanos "servantes." ... II en estdu "gracioso" comme du 
chceur antique. II n'est point une partie eternelle du drame, 
mais il est indispensable a la come'die particuliere ou il joue 
un des principaux roles. II est le bon sens qui corrige les 
folies et les enthousiasmes, il rappelle la verite' humaine en 
presence des exces et des monstruosites. II est le lien 
indispensable entre 1'Espagne chevaleresque et 1'Espagne 
picaresque. . . . S'il faut reconnaitre a Scarron le merite 
d'avoir acclimate en France le valet de comedie dont Moliere 
nous donnera le type achieve", il ne faut pas oublier qu'il nous 
vient de Rojas et de la comedie ironique, et qu'il est beau- 
coup plus le fils du gracioso espagnol que du zanni italien.' 
Martinenche, La Comedie Espagnole en France (1900) pp. 
109, 119,389.] 

65. 23. This subject had been imperfectly examined at the 
time when Dryden wrote, and his statement is not quite 
accurate. It is true that most of the old comedies before 
Shakespeare, such as Ralph Roister Doister and Gammer 
Gurtorfs Needle, were written in rude twelve- syllable lines ; 
to class these with the elegant French Alexandrines of the 
period is to pay them much too high a compliment. But 
there were exceptions ; the Misogonus of Richards (about 
1560) is in fourteen-syllable alternate rhymes; the Supposes 
of Gascoigne (1566) is in prose; and the Taming of a Shrew 
(1594) is in blank verse. See Collier, Annals of the Stage, 
vol. iii. But the chief injustice of Dryden's obiter dictum lay in 
his saying nothing of Lyly, who, as a writer of prose dialogue 
interspersed with blank verse, is important for his purpose. 

30. The unfinished pastoral drama of The Sad Shep 
herd, or A Tale of Robin Hood, must have been written not 
long before Jonson's death in 1637 ; the prologue opens with 
the line 

He that hath feasted you these forty years. 

NOTES. 161 

66. 3. The pastoral drama of The Faithful Shepherdess, 
by Fletcher, was published by 1610. 

1 8. Dryden truly says that The Merry Wives of Windsor 
is ' almost exactly formed ' ; that is, that the unities of time 
and place are nearly observed. The time of the action is 
comprised within two days ; the place is, either some house 
in Windsor, or a street in Windsor, or a field near the town, 
or Windsor Park. 

7. ['To return whence I have digressed.' The substi 
tution, of 'whence' for the loose and pleonastic 'from whence' 
of the first edition, is another proof of the injustice of John 
son's charge against Dryden, that he took no pains to mend 
his style. (See p. 132.) To the instances there given of 
elimination of needless or pendent prepositions should be 
added 63. 2, where the 'bound up' of the first edition 
becomes simply ' limited ' in the second.] 

67. II. 'It is curious to observe with what caution our author 
speaks, when he ventures to place Shakespeare above Jonson ; 
a caution which proves decisively the wretched taste of the 
period when he wrote' (Malone). 

31. Virg. EcL i. 26. 

68. i. John Hales, Fellow of Eton, was a friend of Sir 
Henry Wotton. The Golden Remains of the Ever Memorable 
Mr. John Hales was published in 1659. There is a story 
of his being present when Ben Jonson was speaking of 
Shakespeare's want of learning (Ker). 

[20. See Ben Jonson's fifty-fourth Epigram : 
How I do love thee, Beaumont, and thy Muse, 
That unto me dost such religion use ! 
How I do fear myself, that am not worth 
The least indulgent thought thy pen drops forth! 
At once thou mak'st me happy, and unmak'st, 
And giving largely to me, more thou tak'st ! 
What fate is mine, that so itself bereaves? 
What art is thine, that so thy friend deceives? 
When even there, where most thou praisest me, 
For writing better, I must envy thee.] 

23. Chiefly on account of the woman-page Bellario, in 


whose mouth are put a profusion of pretty and graceful things 
which might often deserve to have been said by Shakespeare's 
Viola. Lamb says (Eng. Dramatic Poets, p. 308), ' For 
many years after the date of Philaster's first exhibition on 
the stage [1608], scarce a play can be found without one of 
those women pages in it, following in the train of some pre- 
engaged lover.' 

69. 10. Mr. Dyce, in his excellent edition of Beaumont and 
Fletcher (1844), enumerates the following plays as certainly, 
or almost certainly, the joint work of the two : 


The Maid's Tragedy. 

The Knight of the Burning Pestle. 

King and no King. 

Cupid's Revenge. 

The Coxcomb. 

Four Plays in One. 

The Scornful Lady. 

The Honest Man's Fortune. 

The Little French Lawyer. 

Wit at several Weapons. 

The Laws of Candy. 

Three others Wit without Money, The Custom of the 
Country, and Bonduca he is disposed to add to the above 
list, but with less confidence. The other plays, in number 
about thirty-nine, published under their joint names, he 
would assign either to Fletcher alone, or to Fletcher assisted 
by some other dramatist, not Beaumont. [The work, con 
siderable in amount, which has been done on Beaumont and 
Fletcher since Dyce's day, and in which Mr. Fleay, with 
his metrical tests, has taken an important part, is summarized 
and critically sifted by Dr. A. W. Ward, in the important 
and elaborate chapter on 'Beaumont and Fletcher' at the 
end of the second volume (revised edition, 1899) of his 
History of English Dramatic Literature, pp. 643-764. 
Dyce's list, as given above, is still generally accepted, with 
the exception that the Little French Lawyer is now usually 

NOTES. 163 

assigned to Fletcher and Massinger (Ward, 720) ; that Wit 
without Money is to be ascribed to * Fletcher alone ' (Ward, 
695) ; that the Custom of the Country is probably Fletcher's 
only (Ward, 721); and that Bonduca is 'now generally 
regarded as Fletcher's unassisted work ' (Ward, 696). The 
reader may also be referred to Prof. Ashley M. Thorndike's 
essay on 'The Influence of Beaumont and Fletcher on 
Shakespeare' (Worcester, Mass., 1901), as well as to Mr. 
Swinburne's essay on ' Beaumont and Fletcher ' in his 
Studies in Prose and Poetry (pp. 53-83), the latter an attempt 
to distinguish the two poets and to assign to each on purely 
aesthetic grounds the share properly belonging to him.] 

21. [Jonson's New Inn and Tale of a Tub. J. A. 
Symonds (Ben Jonson, p. 167) adds Staple of News and 
Magnetic Lady. Perhaps this is unjust to the last named, 
which, according to Langbaine, was generally accounted an 
excellent play ; and as to the Staple of News, Dr. Ward 
writes to me that ' in conception at least it is one of Jonson's 
most characteristic comedies, and much superior to the 
Magnetic Lady?} 

71. 9. The Discoveries, not published till after Jonson's 
death, are like the contents of a commonplace book, and of 
unequal merit ; here occurs the well-known criticism on 
Shakespeare as having 'never blotted out a line.' The praise 
which Dryden gives to the book is perhaps excessive, though 
not warmer than that given by Mr. Swinburne (A Study of 

13. Epicoene, or the Silent Woman, appeared in 1609. 

72. 23. [The verb to 'instance' means to choose or adduce 
an example. In his Dictionary Johnson quotes from 
Tillotson : 'As to false citations ... I shall instance in two 
or three about which he makes the loudest clamour ' ; and 
from Dryden (A Discourse concerning the Original and 
Progress of Satire, ii. 26): 'In Tragedy and Satire . . . 
this age and the last have excelled the ancients in both 
those kinds ; and I would instance in Shakespeare of the 
former, in your Lordship (Dorset) of, the latter sort.' It is 

M 2 


curious that when Johnson came to write Dorset*^ Life he 
should have forgotten his own quotation and changed the 
construction of the verb : ' If such a man attempted poetry, 
we cannot wonder that his works were praised. Dryden . . . 
undertaking to produce authors of our own country superior 
to those of antiquity, says, 7 would instance your lordship in 
satire, and Shakespeare in tragedy? There is yet another 
example of the word in Dryden's prose (Dedication of the 
jEneis, ii. 161) : ' I forbear to instance in many things 
which the stage cannot, or ought not to represent. 5 Reference 
should also be made to this Essay, supra p. 34, 1. 12: 
* This is so plain that I need not instance to you that,' &c. 
The verb is generally followed by ' in/ and at first sight one 
is tempted to construe the ' in ' as belonging to the verb, the 
verbal phrase being thus comparable to * count in,' 'take in,' 
'shut in,' and when Butler (Analogy, \. 6. 353) wrote, 'which 
is the fallacy instanced in by the ancients,' he clearly did so. 
But the other examples cited in the New English Dictionary, 
ranging from 1601 to 1882, prove 'in' to be an ordinary 
preposition. The verb can be, and has been, used without 
the in.' 

26. TJdos, disposition ; naQos, passion (ethos, pathos) ; cf. 
p. 141. 

74. 2. Ex ho^nine. ' Terence, Eun. iii. 2. 7. " The one is 
the born image of the other" ; Parmeno's remark on Gnatho 
the parasite and his patron Thraso ' (Ker). 

75. 25. Hor. Epist. ii. I. 168. 

29. [' One of these advantages is that which Corneille 
has laid down as the greatest which can arrive to any poem,' 
c. See Corneille's Discours des Trois Unites, p. 116 : ' Je 
ne puis oublier que c'est un grand ornement pour un poeme 
que le choix d'un jour illustre et attendu depuis quelque 
temps. II ne s'en pre'sente pas toujours des occasions; et 
dans tout ce que j'ai fait jusqu'ici, vous n'en trouverez de 
cette nature que quatre : celui $ Horace, ou deux peuples 
devaient decider de leur empire par une bataille, celui de 
Rodogune, SAndromtde, et de Don Sanche . . . dans le reste 

NOTES. 165 

de mes ouvrages je n'ai pu choisir des jours remarquables 
que par ce que le hasard y fait arriver, et non pas par 
1'emploi ou 1'ordre public les ait destines de longue 

76. 19. The prose comedy of Bartholomew Fair was pro 
duced in 1614. 

77. 17. Of the piece on which our author has given so high 
an encomium, Drummond of Hawthornden, Jonson's con 
temporary and friend, has left the following anecdote : 
'When his play of The Silent Woman was first acted, 
there were found verses after on the stage against him, 
concluding that the play was well named The Silent 
Woman, because there was never one man to say plaudit 'e 
to it' (Malone). [J. A. Symonds (Ben Jonson, 88) ranks the 
play among Ben Jonson's ' masterpieces,' though he says that, 
' like all of Jonson's works, The Silent Woman illustrates the 
constructive ability of its author rather than the laws of 
artistic growth from within. We can see how it has been 
put together. We do not watch it expanding and spreading 
fantastic boughs like a comedy of Aristophanes. Yet the 
architecture is so flawless that the connection of each part 
seems to be inevitable. . . . Though so artfully constructed, 
Epicoene rather deserves the name of a Titanic farce than 
of a just comedy. It does not, like Volpone, exhibit a ruling 
vice, but exposes a ludicrous personal peculiarity in the main 
actor. . . . But it stirs genial mirth in an ever-increasing 
degree ; and the manners and conversation of the persons in 
this play, especially of the young men, are both more natural 
and more entertaining than is common with Jonson.' ' Its 
merits,' writes Swinburne (A Study of Ben Jonson, 50), 'are 
salient and superb .... this most imperial and elaborate of 
all farces. His wit is wonderful admirable, laughable, laud 
able it is not in the fullest and the deepest sense delightful, 

, it is radically cruel, contemptuous, intolerant ; the sneer of 
the superior person Dauphine or Clerimont is always 
ready to pass into a snarl. . . . Perhaps the only play of 
Jonson's which will keep the reader or spectator for whole 


scenes together" in an inward riot or an open passion of 
subdued or unrepressed laughter.'] 
78. 1 8. Hor. de Arte Poet. 90. 
25. Veil. Paterc. ii. 36. 

80. 13. Macrob. Saturnalia, ii. 7. The * other poet' was 
Publilius Syrus. [There is a fine translation of Laberius 3 
indignant Prologue by Goldsmith (Globe edition, p. 679). 
The * mime' was a scurrilous, often indecent, representation 
of low life, and it was an indignity for a Roman knight to 
appear in such a piece. Of course Caesar's request was 
a command. ' Laberium,' says Macrobius, ' asperae libertatis 
equitem Romanum Caesar quingentis millibus invitavit, ut 
prodiret in scaenam et ipse ageret mimos quos scriptitabat. 
Sed potestas non solum si invitet, sed etiam si supplicet 
cogit, unde se et Laberius a Caesare coactum in prologo 
testatur his vocibus : 

Ego bis tricenis annis actis sine nola 
Eques Romanus e Lare egressus meo 
Domum revertar mimus? 

Offended by these and other liberties of speech, Caesar 
turned his favour to the new star, Publilius Syrus. 'Nee 
ullo recusante superavit omnes, in queis et Laberium. Unde 
Caesar adridens hoc modo pronuntiavit : 

Favente tibi me victus es, Laberi, a Syro?\ 

81. I. [Aristotle's Poetics > iv. 14, thus Englished by Pro 
fessor Butcher : ' Once dialogue had come in, Nature 
herself discovered the appropriate measure. For the iambic 
is, of all measures, the most colloquial : we see it in 
the fact that conversational speech runs into iambic form 
more frequently than into any other kind of verse ; rarely 
into hexameters, and only when we drop the colloquial 
intonation.' What Aristotle says of the tendency of Greek 
prose to run into iambics applies in English to blank verse, 
' into which,' says Dry den (Epistle Dedicatory of The Rival 
Ladies), 'the English tongue so naturally slides that, in 

NOTES. 167 

writing prose, it is hardly to be avoided' (i. 6).] There 
is a curious instance in this Essay (p. 4, last four lines of 
paragraph ending ' fighting men ').] 

20. [* Nicking.' The Century Dictionary gives a number 
of fairly apt quotations to illustrate the use of this obsolete 
or obsolescent word; but it is now most frequently used 
and in the precise sense of the text by the riders of tandem 
cycles to express the very exact correspondence between the 
two riders which makes the whole difference between success 
and failure, ease and discomfort, in that kind of cycling.] 

24. Virg. Eel. vii. 4. 

25. Ovid, Trist. iv. 10. 25 : 

Sponte sua carmen numeros veniebat ad aptos, 
Et quod temptabam scribere versus erat. 

82. 14. [' Painture or designment.' Cf. Dryden's Ode to 
the Memory of Mrs. Anne Killigreiv, stanza 6 : 

For Painture near adjoining lay. 

In the lines To Sir Godfrey Kneller Dryden writes : 
As man grew polished, picture was enhanced. 

Evidently Dryden was feeling about for the word ' painting,' 
without exactly hitting on it. As for 'designment,' see 
stanza 24 of Dryden's Oliver Cromwell : 

Yet still the fair designment was his own.] 

83. 9. Seneca Rhetor, Controv. ix. 5, quoting from Ovid, 
Met. xiii. 503-5. 

II. Ovid, Met. i. 292. This line is quoted by Lucius 
Seneca in Naturales Qitaest. iii. 27. 12. [The jumble of the 
two Senecas, .the rhetorician Marcus (? in reality we do not 
know his praenomen, and the M. does not appear before the 
fifteenth century), and the philosopher Lucius is so confusing, 
and the criticism, in theory and detail, so interesting, that 
it is worth while to quote both passages in full. First 
Seneca Rhetor writes (Controv. ix. 5. 17) : 

' Habet hoc Montanus vitium : sententias suas repetendo corrum- 
pit ; dum non est contentus unam rem semel bene dicere efficit ne 



bene dixerit. Et propter hoc et propter alia quibus orator 
poetae similis videri solebat Scaurus Montanum inter oratores 
Ovidium vocare ; nam et Ovidius nescit quod bene cessit relinquere. 
Ne multa referam quae Montaniana Scaurus vocabat, uno hoc con- 
tentus ero : cum Polyxene esset abducta, ut ad tumulum Achillis 
immolaretur, Hecuba dicit : 

cinis ipse sepulti 

In genus hoc pugnat. 
poterat hoc contentus esse ; adiecit : 

tumulo qtioque sensimus hostem. 
nee hoc contentus est ; adiecit : 

Aeacidae fecunda fui. 

Aiebat autem Scaurus rem veram : non minus magnam virtutem 
esse scire dicere quam scire desinere.' 

Secondly, Lucius Annaeus Seneca the philosopher, in a dis 
course upon the Deluge (Nat. Quaest. iii. 27. 12), refers to 
Ovid's verses on the subject, and, after quoting his monies et 
sparsas Cydadas augent, goes on : 

' Ut ait ille poetarum ingeniosissimus egregie, sicut illud pro 
magnitudine rei dixit : 

Ontnia pontus erant, deerant quoque litora ponto, 
nisi tantum impetum ingenii et materiae ad pueriles ineptias re- 
duxisset : 

Nat lupus inter oves, fulvos vehit tmda leones. 
Non est res satis sobria lascivire devorato orbe terrarum. * Dixit 
ingentia et tantae confusionis imaginem cepit, cum dixit : 

Exspatiata ruunt per apertos flumina campos 

. . . pressaeque labant sub gurgite turres. 

Magnifice haec, si non curaverit, quid oves et lupi faciant. Natari 
autem in deluvio et in ilia rapina potest ? Aut non eodem impetu 
pecus, quo raptum erat, mersum erat? Concepisti imaginem quantam 
debebas, obrntis terris omnibus, coelo ipso in terram ruente : perfer.' 

Dryden himself has said of Ovid elsewhere (Preface to the 
Translation of Ovid's Epistles, \. 234) : 

' But ... it must be acknowledged, in spite of his Dutch friends, 
his commentators, even of Julius Scaliger himself, that Seneca's 
censure will stand good against him; Nescivit quod bene cessit 

NOTES. 169 

relinquere-. he never knew how to give over when he had done 
well ; but. continually varying the same sense an hundred ways, and 
taking up in another place what he had more than enough inculcated 
before, he sometimes cloys his readers instead of satisfying them.'] 

29. The Indian Queen and The Indian Emperor were 
the only plays, altogether in rhyme, which Dryden had pro 
duced before this was written, and The Indian Queen was 
written in part by Sir R. Howard. The Rival Ladies is 
partly prose, partly rhyme. 

84. 3. Sir Robert Howard (Malone) ; in the preface to his 
plays, published in 1665. 

85. 29. * prevail himself,' se prtvaloir, a Gallicism. See 
'Dryden's Preface to Annus Mirabilis (i. 13) : * I could not 
prevail myself of it in the English'; and supra, p. 75, 1. 27 
(first edition). [Also Absalom and Achitophel, Part I, 
1. 461 : 

Prevail yourself of what occasion gives. 

One of Dryden's few careful editors, Mr. W. D. Christie, 
points out that in both passages 'all the later editors, 
following Derrick, have printed avail instead of prevail. 
Dryden also uses the French idiom to profit of'. "To profit 
of the battles he had won" (Aureng-zebe, act ii. sc. i) ; and 
again to provide oneself of, as " Provide yourself of some 
more worthy heir" (Love Triumphant, act iv. sc. i).' Other 
French words and idioms in Dryden are ' renounces to my 
blood' (Hind and Panther, 143) ; 'if they will criticize, they 
shall do it out of their own fond' (Preface to Albion and 
Albanius, i. 277) ; 'scabrous verse ' (Original and Progress of 
Satire, 11.70} ; and 'take the fraischeurof the purer air' (Poem 
on the Coronation, 102). The last of these Gallicisms is 
made the occasion of an attack upon Dryden's diction by 
Macaulay. But in point of fact Dryden is by no means 
a sinner in this respect. His theory is soundness itself. 
' I cannot approve,' he writes (Defence of the Epilogue, i. 170), 
' of their way of refining, who corrupt our English idiom by 
mixing it too much with French : that is a sophistication of 
language, not an improvement of it ; a turning English into 


French, rather than a refining of English by French. We 
meet daily with those fops who value themselves on their 
travelling and pretend they cannot express their meaning in 
English because they would put off to us some French phrase 
of the last edition ; without considering that, for aught they 
know, we have a better of our own. But these are not the 
men who are to refine us ; their talent is to prescribe fashions, 
not words.' Elsewhere (Dedication of the sEneis, ii. 234) 
Dryden has a very interesting defence of himself against the 
charge ' that I latinize too much.' ' When,' he says, ' I find 
an English word significant and sounding, I neither borrow 
from the Latin, nor any other language ; but when I want at 
home, I must seek abroad. . . . We have enough in England 
to supply our necessity; but, if we will have things of 
magnificence and splendour, we must get them by commerce. 
Poetry requires ornament ; and that is not to be had from 
our old Teuton monosyllables * : therefore, if I find any 
elegant word in a classic author, I propose it to be naturalized 
by using it myself; and if the public approves of it, the bill 
passes. . . . Upon the whole matter a poet must first be 
certain that the word he would introduce is beautiful in the 
Latin, and is to consider, in the next place, whether it will 
agree with the English idiom : after this, he ought to take 
the opinion of judicious friends, such as are learned in both 
languages ; and lastly, since no man is infallible, let him use 
this licence very sparingly ; for if too many foreign words are 
poured in upon us, it looks as if they were designed not to 
assist the natives, but to conquer them.' And, speaking 
generally, Dryden's practice did not lag behind his theory. 

1 From a German point of view the excess of monosyllables in 
English is a British, not a Teutonic, peculiarity. Here is a charac 
teristic fling from the England-hating Treitschke at the idea of an 
English-speaking world : ' So soil denn die vielgestaltige Herrlich- 
keit der Weltgeschichte, die einst mit dem Reiche der monosylla- 
bischen Chinesen begann, nach einem trostlosen Kreislaufe mit dem 
Reiche der monosyllabischen Briten endigen ! ' (Deutsche Kampfe, 
ii- 350-] 

NOTES. 171 

Johnson is, in this respect as in others, unjust to Dryden 
when he writes that ' he had a vanity unworthy of his abilities 
to show, as may be suspected, the rank of the company with 
whom he lived, by the use of French words which had then 
crept into conversation ; such as fraicheur for coolness, 
fougtie for turbulence, and a few more, none of which the 
language has incorporated or retained.' But even Johnson 
has said elsewhere of Dryden that ' to him we owe . . . the 
refinement of our language.' Home Tooke said that 
' Dryden's practical knowledge of English was beyond all 
others, exquisite and wonderful ' ; and Charles James Fox told 
Lord Holland that he would admit no word into his history, 
for which he had not the authority of Dryden (Christie).] 

87. 10. 'Vide Daniel, his Defence of Rhyme' (Dryden's 
note). This admirable piece of English prose was written by 
Daniel in 1603, in reply to Campion's Observations in the 
Art of English Poesie. It is reprinted iri the third volume 
of Grosart's Complete Works of Samuel Daniel (1896). 

88. 4. The Siege of Rhodes (1656) was one of the plays 
produced by Sir William Davenant under the Protectorate ; 
1 a kind of nondescript entertainments, as they were called, 
which were dramatic in everything but the names and form ; 
and some of them were called operas' (Hazlitt). Dryden 
elaborated it and added a second part in 1662. 

II. ['Sometimes even to hexameter.' Speaking of the 
odes in Aeschylus' Agamemnon, Prof. Jebb discerns in them 
* an epic tone, Homeric in its nobleness, and accordant with 
the hexameter rhythms which are so largely used ' (Classical 
Greek Poetry, p. 194).] 

15. 'Dryden seems not to have known any of the 
regular Italian tragedies in blank verse (versi sciolti] ; it is 
strange that he should have neglected the blank verse of 
Tasso's Aminta' (Ker). 

90. 3. Virg. Georg. iii. 9 ; for possum should be read 

19. Geo. Sandys, son of an archbishop of York, pub 
lished a metrical version of the Psalms in 1636. In his 


Preface to the Fables (1700) Dryden calls him 'the ingeni 
and learned Sandys, the best versifier of the former age ; 
if I may properly call it by that name, which was the former 
part of this concluding century' (ii. 247). His principal 
achievement was his translation of the Metamorphoses, 
a book much loved and read by the youthful Keats. 

24. Our author here again has quoted from memory. 
Horace's line is \Epist. ii. i. 63] : 

Interdum vulgus rectum videt; est ubi peccat. 


30. Mustapha was a tragedy of the day (hissed off 
the stage, according to Pepys) by Roger Boyle, Earl of 
Orrery. There was an earlier play of the same name by 
Fulke Greville, afterwards Lord Brooke. 

91. 27. Hor. A. P. 90; and below, ib. 231. 

92. 2. [' An ordinary sonnet.' For sonnet in the sense of 
any short poem see Dryden, Dedication of the sEneis (ii. 
219) : 'The genius of their (French) poets is more proper 
for sonnets, madrigals, and elegies than heroic poetry ' ; 
Sidney, Apologie (p. 53, Arber) : ' They say the Lyric is 
larded with passionate sonnets ' ; and ibid. p. 67 : ' That 
lyrical kind of songs and sonnets.'] 

5. [Aristotle (Poetics, xxvi. 4) argues that tragedy is 
superior (Kpet'rrooi/) 'because it has all the epic elements it 
may even use the epic metre with the music and scenic 
effects as important accessories ; and these afford the most 
vivid combination of pleasures. Further, it has vividness of 
impression in reading as well as in representation. More 
over, the art attains its end within narrower limits ; for the 
concentrated effect is more pleasurable than one which is 
spread over a long time and so diluted. . . . Once more, the 
epic imitation has less unity; as is shown by this, that 
any epic poem will furnish subjects for several tragedies' 

94. 6. Pictoribus atque poetis 

Quidlibet audendi semper fuit aequa potestas. 

NOTES. 173 

9 [Nobis non licet esse tarn disertis, 

Qui Musas colimus severiores. Martial, ix. u. 16. 

Cf. Dryden's Author 's Apology for Heroic Poetry and Poetic 
Licence (i. 188-9) : 

' Poetic Licence I take to be the liberty which poets have assumed 
to themselves, in all ages, of speaking things in verse, which are 
beyond the severity of prose. . . . How far these liberties are to 
be extended, I will not presume to determine here, since Horace 
does not. But it is certain that they are to be varied according to 
the language and age in which an author writes. That which would 
be allowed to a Grecian poet, Martial tells us, would not be 
suffered in a Roman. And 'tis evident that the English does more 
nearly follow the strictness of the latter than the freedom of the 

In the Dedication to his Examen Poeticum (ii. il), Dryden, 
arguing for what he calls synalsepha, that is, against hiatus, 
in verse, writes : 

' The French and the Italians have made it an inviolable precept 
in their versification ; therein following the severe example of the 
Latin poets. Our countrymen have not yet reformed their poetry so 
far, but content themselves with following the licentious practice of 
the Greeks ; who, though they sometimes use synalsephas, yet make 
no difficulty, very often, to sound one vowel upon another ; as Homer 
does in the very first line of the Iliad. . . . But it becomes us, for 
the sake of euphony, rather Musas colere severiores, with the Romans, 
than to give into the looseness of the Grecians.' 

In his Dedication of the JEneis (ii. 217) Dryden once more 
recurs to this favourite quotation : 

' Virgil thinks it sometimes a beauty to imitate the licence of the 
Greeks, and leave two vowels opening on each other, as in that verse 
of the third Pastoral: 

Et succus pecori, et lac subducitur agnis. 

But nobis non licet esse tarn disertis, at least if we study to refine our 

Finally, Rapin (of whom Dryden says in the same Apology 
that he ' is alone sufficient, were all other critics lost, to teach 
anew the rules of writing'), in his Comparaison d^Homere et 


de Virgile, i. 36-37, of the edition of 1684, has the follow 

' Les transitions, qui doivent par leur caractere etre fort variees, 
pour desennuyer la lecture, sont toutes semblables dans la plus 
grande partie de son ouvrage. On n'en peut compter tout au plus 
que de vingt ou trente sortes dans toute 1'etendue de pres de trente 
mille vers ; et ainsi une meme liaison se presentant d'ordinaire est 
fort sujette a donner du degout par une si frequente repetition ; ce 
qui a donne meme sujet a Martial de railler un peu du TOV 8' 
oLTra/j-ei^o^Lfvos, et de dire que les Muses latines ne sont pas tout 
a fait si relachees ni si libres que les grecques : Qui Musas colimus 

The instances which Martial gives of the laxity of Greek 
poets are (i) the way in which they make Earinos (the name 
of a favourite of Domitian) possible for verse by spelling it 
Eiarinos, and (2) the use of two successive words with a 
different quantity for the initial syllable in each ('Ape? "Apes). 
Of course there is a sense in which Ovid is a stricter versifier 
than Propertius or even than Virgil (Lucian Miiller, Res 
metrica.) p. 522, ed. of 1894), and Martial no doubt meant 
that. But when he wrote ( severiores,' the man about town 
may have had his tongue in his cheek, and perhaps a touch 
of Trapa irpocrftoKiav was intended in the phrase. It is note 
worthy, however, that even so serious a person as the elder 
Seneca (Controv. x. 4. 33, p. 501 of Kiessling) puts in much 
the same claim for Latin against Greek : ' Graecas sententias 
in hoc refero ut possitis aestimare, primum quam facilis e 
Graeca eloquentia in Latinam transilus sit et quam omne 
quod bene dici potest commune omnibus gentibus sit, deinde 
ut ingenia ingeniis conferatis et cogitetis Latinam linguam 
factdtatis non minus habere, licentiae minus!} 

96. 2. The Water-poet, John Taylor, was so called from 
his having been long a waterman on jhe Thames. Wood 
gives an account of him in the Atkenae, and Hazlitt devotes 
rather a lengthy article to him in his edition of Johnson's 
Lives. Taylor enjoyed a great popularity. ' If it were put 
to the question,' says Ben Jonson (Discoveries, chap. 63, 
p. 34 (Dent), 'of the Water-rhymer's works against Spenser's, 

NOTES. 175 

I doubt not but they would find more suffrages; because 
the most favour common vices, out of a prerogative the 
vulgar have to lose their judgements, and like that which 
is naught.' 

7. Cicero in his Brutus (cap. 73) quotes this as a maxim 
laid down by Caesar in his work * on the method of speaking 
in Latin,' to which the name * De Analogia ' was given. 
13. Seneca's tragedy of Hippolytus, 1. 863. 

97. i. The reference is to Dryden's preface to The Rival 

28. Sir Robert Howard, in the Preface to his Plays, 
before referred to. 

99. 22. ' Somerset House,' says Strype in his edition 
(1720) of Stow's History of London > 'hath been used as the 
Palace or Court of the Queen Dowagers ; it belong'd of late 
to Katharine Queen Dowager, the wife of King Charles the 
Second. At the entrance into this Court out of the Strand is 
a spacious square court garnished on all sides with rows of 
freestone buildings, and at the Front is a Piazza, with stone 
Pillars which support the buildings, and a pavement of 
freestone.' He goes on to say that there were steps down to 
the river, and a ' most pleasant garden which runs to the 
water side.' This way from the river bank up into Somerset 
House has long been closed, but in Knight's London there 
is a view of the river side of the old building, which cannot 
have been so near the river as the present Georgian one. 
Among Cowley's Verses 'written on Several Occasions is a 
poem in heroic couplets ' On the Queen's repairing Somerset 
House,' in which the poet gives Catharine of Braganza great 
credit for making good the ruin left by the Civil War. 

102. 9. Dimock. The hereditary Champion of England, 
as lord of the manor of Scrivelsby. [In a letter to the 
Spectator (Feb. 23, 1901) advocating the retention or revival 
of the ' Services of Grand Serjeantry,' Mr. L. W. Vernon 
Harcourt writes: 

' The service of King's Champion belongs to the Dynioke family, 
the representative of the ancient house of Marmion, and it apper- 


tains to the manor of Scrivelsby. Documentary evidence of this 
service dates back to 20 Edward I; but tradition makes it a 
Norman service. The earliest account of the ceremony is given by 
a chronicler of Richard II's coronation. The great estates of the 
Marmions had then become dispersed. Tanfield was in the hands 
of the Fitz-Hughes, Tamworth belonged to Baldwin Freville, while 
Scrivelsby had come to the Dymokes. Accordingly, several 
claimants for the service presented themselves, but the Court of 
Claims decided for Scrivelsby. The following is a typical descrip 
tion of the ceremony ; the scene is laid at Henry VIII's coronation 
feast : 

" The second course being served, in at the hall door entered a 
Knight armed at all points, his herald of arms before him, and 
presented himself to the King. This was Sir Robert Dymoke, 
champion to the King by tenure of his inheritance. Garter King of 
Heralds accosts him : ' Sir Knight, from whence came you and 
what is your pretence?' [After further preliminaries] his herald 
cries, ' Oyes ' ; and then proclaims : ' If there be any person, of 
what estate or degree soever he be, that will say or prove that 
King Henry VIII is not the rightful inheritor and king of the 
realm, I, Sir Robert Dymoke, here his champion, offer my glove to 
fight in his quarrel to the outraunce.' " 

The proceedings terminate by the King drinking to the Champion's 
health out of a gold bowl, which the knight carries away with him. 
At the coronation of George IV the service was performed by 
deputy, the then lord of the manor being in Holy Orders.'] 

1 6. [See Spartianus, Vita Hadriani, 15 : * Et Favorinus 
quidem, cum verbum eius quondam ab Hadriano repre- 
hehsum esset atque ille cessisset, arguentibus amicis quod 
idonei auctores usurpassent, risum iucundissimum niovit. 
Ait enim, "Non recte suadetis, familiares, qui non patimini 
me ilium doctiorem omnibus credere qui habet triginta 
legiones." '] 

104. 26. [' For delight is the chief, if not the only, end of 
poesie.' Cf. supra, p. 33, 1. 26 : ' They have ill satisfied one 
intention of a play, which was delight.' To quote Prof. Jebb 
again (ibid. p. 258) : * The prevalent view of the Elizabethan 
age, as given by Sir Philip Sidney in his Apology for Poetry, 
was that the end of poetry is 'delightful teaching.' Dryden 
was something of a heretic when he ventured to say, ' I am 

NOTES. 177 

satisfied if verse cause delight ; for delight is the chief, if not 
the only, end of poesy.' It may seem strange that the view 
of poetry as primarily didactic, a view which might be deemed 
prosaic, should have been that which was generally held by 
the Greeks, the most artistic of all races, in the age when 
their artistic faculties were at the best. But . . . what it 
really signifies, in. its old Greek form, is that poetry was 
interwoven with the whole texture of Greek life . . . when 
the Greeks spoke of the poet as a teacher, and of poetry as 
didactic, this did not imply any indifference to beauty and 
form, or to the delights which such form gives ; it wassimply 
a recognition of poetry as the highest influence, intellectual 
and spiritual, which they knew/ To be just to Dryden, it 
should be added that in his Defence of the Essay (p. 113, 
1. 31) he insists that 'moral truth is the mistress of the poet, 
as much as of the philosopher.'] 

105. 28. Hor. A. P. 362. 
30. Ib. 50. 

106. 10. 'lazar' sometimes = Mazar-house'; and the refer 
ence seems to be to Bartholomew's Hospital, which is the 
scene of the play of Bartholomew Fair. 

107. 22. [' My conversation.' See Johnson's Life of 
Dryden : ' Congreve represents him as ready to advise and 
instruct ; but there is reason to believe that his communica 
tion was rather useful than entertaining. He declares of 
himself that he was saturnine, and not one of those whose 
sprightly sayings diverted company; and one of his cen- 
surers makes him say, 

Nor wine nor love could ever see me gay; 
To writing bred, I knew not what to say. 

... Of Dryden's sluggishness in conversation it is vain to 
search or to guess the cause. He certainly wanted neither 
sentiments nor language : his intellectual treasures were 
great, though they were locked up from his own use. " His 
thoughts," when he wrote, " flowed in upon him so fast, that 
his only care was which to choose, and which to reject." 
Such rapidity of composition naturally promises a flow of 



talk ; yet we must be content to believe what an enemy 
says of him, when he likewise says it of himself. 5 ] 

109. 7. [' Barach ' in Hebrew means bless, with the anti 
thetical meaning of c^^rse, the idea being that the blessing 
was overdone, and so really a curse, as in vulgar English 
as well as in the Semitic cognates. See Driver's Gesenius 
(1893), with references to I Kings xxi. 10, 13 ; Job i. 5, ii, 
and ii. 5, 9 ; and Psalm x. 3. See especially Psalm x. 3 and 
Job ii. 9. In the former passage the Authorized Version 
reads : ' For the wicked . . . blesseth the covetous whom 
the Lof d abhorreth,' while the Revised Version has : ' And 
the covetous renounceth, yea contemneth the Lord/ and 
in the margin suggests as an alternative : * Or blesseth the 
covetous, but contemneth' &c. In Job ii. 9 the famous 'curse 
God and die,' becomes in the Revised Version ' Renounce 
God and die.'] 

111. 9. Lucan, Phars. i. 12 : 

Bella geri placuit, nullos habitura tfiumphos. 

112. 12. [' Satyr.' So spelled here by Dryden, and even 
throughout his Original and Progress of Satire (1693). 
But a passage from the latter essay shows that he had 
perceived his error: 'In the criticism of spelling, it ought 
to be with *", and not with y, to distinguish its true derivation 
from satura, not from satyrus. And if this be so, then it is 
false spelled throughout this book, for here it is written 
Satyr : which having not considered at the first, I thought it 
not worth correcting afterwards.'] 

22. [Malone's suggestion of Lord Lauderdale (of the 
Cabal) is no doubt correct ; but the precise interpretation of 
the passage remains obscure. All we know is that about the 
time these words were written (1668) Lauderdale was making 
himself notorious for profligacy and gormandizing. At the 
end of his preface to the second volume of the Lauderdale 
Papers, edited by him for the Camden Society, Mr. Osmund 
Airy thus sums up Lauderdale's six years of power from 
1667 to 1673 : 
'We leave him, no longer the "good Maitland," the "gracious 

NOTES 179 

youth" of Baillie's affection, bearing on his face, as we see it in a 
picture by an unknown hand, a frank intelligence and the possibilities 
of a noble life ; but rather such as he had become when there fell 
upon him the solemn and sorrowful rebuke of his old friend Richard 
Baxter, such as we see him in Lely's well-known portrait, the type 
of all that was coarsest and most brutal among the men of Charles's 
Court ; swollen with gluttony, and brutalized with vice, he bears on 
lip and brow the secure and shameless arrogance which befits the 
irresponsible proconsul of a distant province, and the privileged 
comrade in the pleasures of a degraded king.' 

Baxter's letter, which in substance charges Lauderdale with 
drunkenness and vice, is given by Mr. Airy in an appendix 
to this volume, p. 235.] 

114. 3. Hor. de Art. Poet. 338. 

14. Sir John Birkenhead (1616-1679) in a poem, In 
Memory of Mr. Cartwright, wrote that his friend 
Knew the right mark of things, saw how to choose, 
(For the great Wit's great work is to Refuse}. 

115. 5. //. viii. 267. 
118. 4. See above, p. 7. 

120.12. [' Herculean ' = overwhelming, knock-down. 'You 
have knocked him down with a kind of Herculean Club' 
(Howell, 1645). * The first, which is the main and Herculean 
Argument' (Power, 1664 both from New English Dic 
tionary]. Seneca, Epist. 83. 23 ' ille Herculaneus ac fatalis 
scyphus ' ; 87. 38 ' Bonum animum habe ; unrfs tibi nodus, 
sed Herculaneus restat.'] 



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